COVID-related supports for vulnerable pupils

This week saw the introduction of Phase One measures in line with Government guidelines affording teachers access to their school buildings for the first time since the enforced school closure. Schools are demonstrating great innovation in in adapting to support remote teaching and learning during these challenging times. Access to schools is an important development which will augment and support the crucial work of teachers. Whilst such access, at this juncture, should be minimal and only in circumstances where the work cannot be done remotely, teachers have welcomed this flexibility to assist with the continuity of education. Government guidance on access to school buildings can be accessed here.

The Department of Education have also published several documents to support schools in facilitating the continuity of learning, with specific guidance on pupils with Special Educational Needs and pupils experiencing educational disadvantage. These documents are available here.

The Government issued schools with updated guidance to help them operate the School Meals Programme. Schools have continued to arrange a weekly pack of provisions and have been collaborating with local community support networks in this regard. Building on the cooperative engagement on school meals provision, the Department of Education and Skills is working with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Tusla Education Support Service to ensure that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are adequately supported exploring other innovative means of reaching vulnerable pupils and their families at this time, as greater flexibility will be possible with the gradual easing of restrictions.

A list of champions is available online on The Wheel’s website. The Community Outreach Map provides a list of contacts by county of Local Authority Contacts. There is also a list by county, with contact details of local Community Champions.

An Post have also agreed to facilitate delivery of non–perishable food packets and they currently operate a number of distribution centres across the country for the delivery of school meals programme. This service may assist schools with delivery of learning packages at this time, and schools are encouraged to make contact with the GPO if they would like to explore this option. (While there are limits for each distribution centre, anecdotally it is understood that they are not all operating at capacity).

Other offers of support, that the Department of Education has referenced include assistance from:

  • The Civil Defence to Dublin’s North East Inner City and
  • Boston Scientific which was forwarded to all schools in Galway.

NEPS psychologists continue to be available to provide advice and support to school principals, teachers and school communities. NEPS is proactively exploring a number of innovative ways to continue to provide educational psychological services to school communities at this time.

At a time of great anxiety and uncertainty, we must continue to do our best to help those in most need.

Ní neart go cur le chéile.