The integration of thousands of Ukrainian children into Irish schools will present challenges on a scale that the education system has never seen before, ASTI general secretary Kieran Christie has said.
Mr Christie told delegates attending the union's first in-person annual convention in three years that the crisis in Ukraine and its impact on the Irish education system was evolving on a daily basis.
“ASTI, as a participant in a stakeholder group that has been convened to plan for such a scenario, has sought to ensure that the impacts on an already heavily oversubscribed and underfunded system will be addressed,” he told the gathering in Cork.
“We are calling for provision to overcome the language barriers, the need for education welfare services, critical incidents, trauma and wider support and many other resources that are necessary.”
Mr Christie acknowledged that regional education support teams have been put in place to seek to match up services and streamline provision but there was “no doubt that the management of the situation will be an enormous strain in the period of time to come”.
Earlier, Minister for Education Norma Foley pledged that the Government would provide the necessary resources to primary and secondary schools to enable them to cater for the influx of thousands of Ukrainian children expected after the Easter holidays.
“Already we have quite a large number of students from Ukraine in our schools. I want to acknowledge and salute the generosity of schools in making places, capacity and space available to welcome these students in,” she said, adding that more than 260 primary schools had already applied for additional hours or additional teaching posts
“We have more than 2,000 students at primary school and we have almost 1,800 at second level but there will be much more coming to us after Easter.”
Ms Foley said that Regional Education and Language Teams (REALT) under the direction of the Education and Training Board (ETB) have been established so as to ensure that students will have a place in a school.
“We are conscious we have significant capacity in some places and less so in others. So the REALT teams will be working through there. We have made significant resources available in terms of (the) English language
“And we are now moving with the Department of Further and Higher Education to put a new system in place for English as an additional language where we have tutors being made available to post primary students and also to adults in their families - almost a community-family wide initiative to ensure that language is available.
“There is a cross Government view here - (we are) committed to resourcing and putting in place the resources required to provide for Ukrainian families and students.
“We in the Department of Education will not be found wanting in providing the financial resources (required) - but also recognising that there is extraordinary good will on the ground from staff, students and from entire communities to ensure a (school) place is made available.”