Thousands of Ukrainian students are expected to enroll in schools here starting tomorrow, as the government estimates it can add more than 41,000 new students to the education system if needed.
Education officials have estimated about 25,000 are currently available in elementary schools.
A survey of the secondary schools is ongoing, but government sources say there is room for 16,000 to 18,000 students if required.
About 80 percent of secondary schools have been surveyed so far, and that work is expected to be completed once schools are back up and running tomorrow. It is assumed that there is capacity for 2,500 to 3,500 additional students each year of the secondary school.
Enrollments are well below those numbers, but schools are bracing for an influx of students as it would have been difficult to enroll in schools while schools were closed for the inter-holiday period.
It is also believed that there is a pent-up demand for school places which is likely to materialize in the coming weeks as there is a delay between the arrival of Ukrainian families in Ireland and their final enrolment.
In some cases, families have had to delay enrolling in schools until they can figure out where they will be placed long-term; in other cases, parents and guardians may have held off reaching agreement before registering with a local school; others are said to have waited to see if it would be possible to return to Ukraine.
To date, there have been around 2,000 new primary school registrations. Secondary schools have enrolled 1,800 students.
An Education Ministry spokesman said primary school enrollments here peaked in 2018 but have since declined, freeing up capacity. He said this is timely as the majority of students coming from Ukraine are believed to be of primary school age.
“The overall net reduction in primary school enrollment by 2022/23 has been projected to be in the order of 25,000 students. There is also good capacity at the post-primary level,” he said.
“Ultimately, the location of the accommodation provided for the Ukrainian families will be relevant in order to maximize the utilization of the existing school capacity. The department is coordinating this with other government agencies to ensure that our planning processes are as aligned as possible.”
Sources have acknowledged that hitting those numbers would strain the education system, with teachers’ unions regularly raising class size concerns even before Russia invaded Ukraine.
However, it is unclear how many positions will be filled. Unions have been working with the Department of Education to discuss how to provide vital support for new students.
At a briefing ahead of ASTI’s annual meeting last week, union general secretary Kieran Christie said it was important to get as many Ukrainian teachers into the education system as possible.
The department said it is working closely with the teaching council to prioritize enrolling such teachers. The need for additional teachers in schools is dealt with on a case-by-case basis by the department.
According to one source, 33 “full-time equivalent” teachers have been made available to 262 primary schools. About five have been assigned to support 58 secondary schools with ongoing needs assessments.
Language supports will also be set up to help children and their families transition into Irish schools, a spokesman said, and these will work to match “school capacity with family accommodation”. The teams also help in providing tutors who speak other languages to meet the needs of Ukrainian students.
Bus Éireann has consulted with the Department of Education to facilitate school transport.
Tickets here are free, with the normal eligibility criteria being waived. In cases where capacity or existing services are not available, grants may be offered to families, a government source said.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/education/first-day-of-school-here-tomorrow-for-thousands-as-ukrainian-children-to-enrol-tomorrow-41581754.html First day of school here tomorrow for thousands as Ukrainian children to enroll tomorrow