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Mitigating impact of Covid-19 learning loss requires long-term resourcing

Mitigating the impact of Covid-19 learning loss on our children and young people requires significant, long-term resourcing.  Social Justice Ireland welcomes the announcement of Covid Learning and Supports Scheme and the accompanying €52.6 million to fund additional teaching hours to mitigate the impact of the learning disruption caused by Covid-19, including the enhanced allocations for DEIS schools and special schools and funding for research into outcomes for pupils.  However, given the long-term impact of Covid-19 on our education system it is vital that this funding continues beyond the current school year.

Social Justice Ireland research shows that the impact of Covid-19 on our education system will widen the learning gap between rich and poor, impose long-term losses of income on all students - with disadvantaged students suffering greater learning losses and greater impacts on their lifetime earnings.  It could reverse much of the progress made on addressing educational disadvantage to date.  The findings of our recent ‘Education and Covid-19’ policy brief regarding the economic impact of interrupted learning and education on individual student’s earnings throughout their lifetime are very concerning.  Our research indicates long-term losses in income of around 3 per cent with disadvantaged students suffering greater impacts on their lifetime earnings.  Our research also showed that Covid-19 extended school closures has had a devastating, and likely lasting, impact on children with special educational needs and their families.

While we welcome the investment announced by Minister Foley and Minister Madigan in the Covid Learning and Supports Scheme additional and ongoing investment will be required to ensure that the lost learning of students at all levels of education will be made up in the coming months and years.

Social Justice Ireland recommends the following priorities be developed into the Covid Learning and Supports Scheme in Budget 2022:

  • Keep average class sizes below 20, reduce the pupil teacher ratio further and ensure all DEIS Band 1 and 2 schools have sufficient resources to implement strategies to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes for pupils. 
  • Make the improvement of educational outcomes for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and disadvantaged communities a policy priority, with additional resources focused on addressing the persistence of educational disadvantage.
  • Invest in reducing class sizes and pupil teacher ratios at primary and post primary level.
  • Use the Department of Education projections in terms of enrolment and staff numbers to inform investment, plan for reducing class sizes, reducing pupil teacher ratios (a persistent problem which Covid-19 has highlighted), and ensuring that our education system has all of the resources that it requires to meet our national ambitions. 
  • Support schools to ensure that they have the required number of staff with appropriate qualifications, and the necessary programmes, supports and resources to meet the needs of pupils with special educational needs