More than 11,000 Ukrainian students are expected in schools next week

The number of Ukrainian pupils in Irish schools will rise significantly to over 11,000 next week – and the number will continue to rise.

Another 3,800 children — 2,100 elementary school students and 1,700 secondary school students — have enrolled since the end of June.

The demand for a place for September continues, with about 30 school-age children entering the country every day.

The Department of Education presented the figures at a pre-return-to-school briefing for school leaders and teachers’ unions today.

Between the arrival of the first refugees from the war-torn country in early March and late June, 7,285 Ukrainian students were enrolled in the schools.

Younger children continue to dominate enrollments, with elementary schools accounting for about two-thirds — more than 7,000 — of newly arrived students.

The total of 11,085 expected next week represents more than 1 percent of the school’s population of approximately 950,000.

The pre-enrollment of the newly arrived students in the schools has been overseen by special regional teams known as REALT, which operate under the umbrella of the local education and training authorities.

The initial focus was on secondary schools, which started returning for the new semester this week.

Where possible, families have been referred to parts of the country where there is spare classroom capacity.

The Secretary-General of the Irish National Teachers’ Organization (INTO), John Boyle, welcomed the work around pre-registration that INTO had sought but said there was still an element of change as families moved from one place to another .

“We are working closely with REALT teams to ensure children get their seats as quickly as possible and in time for the September 1 reopening,” he said, adding that it may not be possible in all cases to accommodate all Ukrainian children Children to be born next Thursday in a classroom.

Aside from school capacity, the placement of families and their children in schools faces challenges in terms of housing availability, as many refugees have to move more than once before settling on a long-term basis.

School transport can also be a problem for some. If a child has to travel a long distance to school, a bus ticket will be provided, but unprecedented demand for school transport combined with a shortage of drivers is impacting service in general.

Mr Boyle welcomed the pledge by senior department officials to support children with additional complex needs by providing additional hours of instruction and hiring Special Needs Assistants (SNAs).

He said the children had professional reports from Ukraine and that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) would have them translated before making a placement decision.

Mr Boyle said while some may need a special school place, schools would be asked to take a “humanitarian approach” and take a child in pending such decisions.

Schools are returning without the Covid restrictions of the last two school years, but funds will be made available for additional hygiene measures such as disinfectants and improved cleaning.

The department will issue a circular to schools on Monday setting out the details of funding and any other recommendations or protocols related to Covid.

The additional boards of substitute teachers introduced last year to allow easier access to a substitute teacher remain in place, but Mr Boyle said there were around 500 to 600 schools that did not have coverage and the scheme should be rolled out nationwide

While teacher shortages are not at “the same crisis level” as in the post-primary sector, the INTO Secretary-General said there were vacancies and that there would also be a need for replacements later in the year.

He pointed out that according to the official forecast, elementary schools would have 8,000 fewer students in September, but the arrival of Ukrainian refugees has restored that number. More than 11,000 Ukrainian students are expected in schools next week

Fry Electronics Team

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