Hotels, community centres and churches could be used as schools for Ukrainian pupils on a short-term basis in the event that there is no spare capacity in local schools.
Internal Department of Education documents show that while there are tens of thousands of spare places in schools nationally, there is a risk of shortages in certain areas in the event that very large numbers are located in hotels or other facilities.
Contingency plans state that in these circumstances schooling may need to take place on-site. For example, a teacher employed by a local school could be based at a local hotel.
“This may not be required in some cases if there is sufficient space in local existing schools, but it would be good contingency planning to incorporate it as the default position and could help ensure faster access to education and language supports,” the briefing document states.
“This would avoid the challenge of transporting pupils from the centre to schools on a daily basis. The department would remain committed to providing an integrated education as soon as possible.”
It says the suitability of hotels, community centres or church facilities would have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Latest figures show there are some 13,700 Ukrainian pupils enrolled in schools across Ireland, some 8,800 of whom are in primary schools. While Dublin is hosting most new arrivals, counties such as Kerry, Clare and Donegal have the highest proportion of Ukrainian pupils relative to the local school population.
Department of Education surveys indicate that there are about 54,000 spare school places at primary level and 20,000 at second level.
Internal documents indicate that challenges in relation to teacher supply may be “more difficult to resolve” where they materialise, especially at post-primary level where teacher shortages predated the outbreak of war in Ukraine.
Another option, according to the records, is to consider “double shifts” in existing schools, such as having a first shift in from early morning to early afternoon, and a second shift from early afternoon to later in the evening. While officials state that this could cause “significant industrial relations and other logistical issues, it is an options to be considered if other measures are not feasible”.
Records also show there are more than 200 Ukrainian pupils enrolled in all-Irish schools. These schools have sought additional language support because they say they are challenged by the need to teach new arrivals both English and Irish.
In many cases, Ukrainian students are continuing their education online and are not necessarily registering with local schools. Midway through last year, for example, a third of Ukrainian children of school-going age had not enrolled in a local school. This rose to 50 per cent among those aged 13-18.