The Department of Education must prioritise assistance and resources for schools to provide online teaching and learning to children during current Level 5 restrictions, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Senator Emer Currie has said more support is needed for parents to assist them if schoolwork is to continue when the majority of classrooms are closed.
Senator Currie said, “Most parents like me completely accept the decision to keep schools closed is needed to suppress the transmission of Covid-19 and that teachers and school communities will do their best to support students and parents. It is very welcome that Special Schools and Special Classes are to remain open.
“However, parents need support not only in relation to students sitting exams, but with the pressures of home-schooling when they don’t have the expertise, or are trying to double-job between home-schooling, childcare, working from home or on the frontline.
“I know from speaking to a lot of parents that they are dreading the idea of juggling work and home-schooling again, even though they recognise that everyone must play their part and follow the public health guidelines with cases of Covid-19 rising once again.
“During the first school closure, there was huge variation in how schools engaged parents to put teaching plans in place, from providing parents with learning sheets weekly to do with their children, to providing online classes.
“I would call on the Department of Education to prioritise assistance, resources and consistency for schools in online learning, even if it means that the start date for online learning is pushed out while it is being organised.
“I believe schools may need time to put teaching plans in place and the Department could spend that time providing online learning guidance to ensure there is a clear plan for home-schooling.
“I know the Department has provided some guidance on distance learning to principals and teachers and there are resources available, but parents need more assurances and direction so they can ensure their children aren’t falling behind while not in school.
“We need to relook at the technology provisions for children that didn’t have access to digital devices during the first lockdown and see if it was enough. €10 million was provided for schools to buy devices like laptops and educational websites were zero-rated, but is that enough to ensure no child gets left behind? This isn’t just about lockdown, it’s an investment in digital assets for schools and making sure we support those who need it most.
“We have a window of opportunity where everyone needs to come on board in the national effort to suppress the virus once again.
“All employers need to be mindful of the pressures faced by employees at the moment as they balance working from home with other responsibilities such as childcare. Parents need reassurance and support to go easy on themselves. I will continue to work with Government to ensure that the Department of Education provides all possible supports to make this challenge easier for parents.”