At least 700 Ukrainian students have been registered in Irish schools but the number is likely to grow "exponentially" over the coming days and weeks, Minister for Education Norma Foley has said.
She said about a third of the 10,000 or more Ukrainian nationals who have arrived in Ireland in recent weeks are children, but it is taking time for them to be formally registered.
Ms Foley also pledged that a number of “one-stop-shops” for education will be established around the country to help streamline access to school places and other supports. These regional teams will be run by the State’s 16 Education and Training Boards.
“They will be contact points for Ukrainian families or their advocates. So, if there isn’t a school place in the local school, this regional team will source a place and arrange transport. It’s to lessen the load and lighten the burden with whatever provision needs to be made,” she said.
The Minister said additional English-language supports and mainstream teachers will be made available to schools that need it.
In addition, she said her department is working with other education authorities to source Tefl (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teachers to assist families and schools, while Ukrainian teachers will be fast-tracked through the Teaching Council registration process.
While there are thousands of spare school places across the primary and secondary system, she said these will need to be matched with families’ accommodation needs.
“We do know from what we’re seeing in every other country that the numbers could be enormous,” she said.
“Our key point is that wherever children end up, we’ll do all we can to make provision of education for them.”
She was speaking following a visit to Trinity Comprehensive Ballymun in Dublin where nine Ukrainian students started school recently.
One of the students, Rostyslav Kuznetc (14) from Odessa, said he had been on a family holiday in Istanbul when the war broke out. A month ago, he said, his life at home revolved around school, skateboarding with his friends and playing computer games. Now, he said, he was adjusting to a new life in Ireland.
“It’s pretty hard, because we have nothing, but people are really helping us and I feel at home here in Ballymun. I like it.
“I have Ukrainian and Irish friends now… The teachers are friendly and it’s easy to communicate with them. I’m teaching them Ukrainian words.”
He said he misses his friends from home, along with his dog, Milka, who has stayed behind with his grandparents.
The family decided to relocate to Ireland after hearing from friends that it was a “good place to live in”.
Nadine Butler, an English teacher at Trinity Comprehensive, said most of the Ukrainian students aged 14-16 have been placed in transition year on a temporary basis.
“Rather than following a strict curriculum, it gives them time to settle in and build relationships,” she said.
“We’re here to offer them stability, a warm welcome and to let them know that our school is a place for them as much as for anyone else.”