Schools’ Return an Opportunity to Assess Impact of Pandemic - Catch-Up for Children Scheme Needed

15 April 2021

Ivana Bacik

  • Now that all age cohorts have returned to school, analysis is needed to assess the impact of prolonged school closures.
  • The Labour Party’s ‘Catch-Up for Children’ scheme would provide €100m in targeted funding to help make up for lost class time and related benefits.
  • Calls to Labour Party representatives show that the effects of pandemic-related school closures have most severely impacted upon vulnerable children.

As we approach the end of the first full week back at school for children across the country, Labour Party Seanad Group Leader and Spokesperson for Children Senator Ivana Bacik has renewed her calls for a ‘Catch Up for Children’ scheme.

Senator Bacik said,

“Marking the final phase in the plan to re-open schools, it has been a great relief to see children and young people across the country return to classrooms this week. Now that first to fourth year secondary school students are finally getting back to in-person teaching for the first time since the Christmas holidays, there is a palpable sense that we are on the road to resume some level of normalcy.

“However, there remains a need to give practical recognition for the lost hours of education and extra-curricular activities. I note that this week the Children’s Futures coalition has also called for increased resources to enable students to catch up on learning lost in the past year.

“In order to make up for all the education and related benefits that our children have missed out on, we in Labour estimate that a €100m ‘Catch-Up for Children’ scheme is required. Since first calling for such an initiative in early February, Labour Party representatives have been inundated with messages from parents and teachers who have told of the severe regression that they have observed in many children. Unfortunately, Ireland’s experience appears to mirror that of other jurisdictions in that the negative effect of school closures has been exacerbated by pre-existing inequalities; vulnerable children and young people, those from socioeconomic disadvantage and those with disabilities or other additional needs are struggling to keep up with their studies the most.

“As part of our proposed scheme, an analysis must be undertaken to assess the damage caused by school closures. The lives of our children and young people have been severely and disproportionately affected by the pandemic and time is of the essence if we are to reverse this effect. Now that in-person schooling has finally resumed for all age cohorts, the Government must act quickly to identify where there is the most acute need for supports.

“While we await the publication of official figures for 2019-2020, anecdotal evidence suggests that there may have been an increase in the number of early school leavers during this period and that this may be attributable to school closures in 2020. The long-term effects of this troubling situation will worsen, the longer it is left unaddressed. With summer holidays for secondary schools approaching rapidly, urgent interventions must be made if we are to prevent increased numbers of young people from leaving the education system without completing secondary school because they did not receive enough support this year.

“I was disappointed to learn through recent parliamentary questions that the Government does not intend to implement our proposed ‘Catch-Up for Children’ scheme. However, I will continue to work with organisations representing the youth work sector, children and young people to seek commitments on funding to assess and address the damaging impacts upon children caused by prolonged closures of schools.”

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