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Q&A: What you need to know about school and college closures

The Government today announced that educational institutions will close until Mar 29. Liz Dunphy answers some of your questions about the closures here.

Is my school affected?

Yes. All pre-schools, schools, further and higher education establishments have been closed.

How long will this closure last?

Until March 29, but the situation will be under constant review and that date may change.

What about my exams?

Concrete advice on contingency plans has not yet been announced but exam classes are to continue to prepare for examinations.

I have oral/practical exams scheduled in the next two weeks, will these go ahead?

Not now. The Department of Education says that these will be rescheduled. 

Does my school have online lessons planned?

Some schools do. Check with your school directly. There is no nationally standardised education hardware and software, internet access varies and many students, particularly those in disadvantaged communities, may not have the facilities to access remote learning from their family home, a Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) spokesperson said.

Can we meet for study groups?

The Department of Education has advised students to avoid meet-ups and to keep physical distance between you and other people.

I have insufficient internet to access school work from home, what should I do?

Many schools have been preparing for this possibility, designing low-resolution files and making resources which could be browsed online with limited internet rather than creating large files to download which would require more internet, Grainne Dwyer of Skibbereen's Ludgate Hub says. Additional mobile internet can be purchased from phone shops in dongles (mini modems) which have a capped amount of internet access.

“Filmmaker, David Putnam, hosts global online lectures from his house in Skibberreen so rural connectivity definitely is manageable,” Ms Dwyer said.

What impact will this closure have on my education?

Schools and universities have committed to maintaining educational standards to the greatest degree possible throughout the closure.

What about childcare?

Childcare facilities have also been asked to close.

Do I need to stay at home with my children now?

The Government has asked everyone who can, to work remotely, so yes, if possible, stay at home.

Who made this decision?

The Department of Education in line with advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team.

I'm a Special Needs Assistant, what should I do?

SNAs should not report for work. The trade union Fórsa says that SNAs will be placed on special leave and staff will be paid as normal.

I'm a school secretary, what should I do?

School secretaries should not report for work unless it is absolutely essential. Full pay should be maintained throughout the period of closure. 

I'm a school caretaker, what should I do?

Caretakers will be required to work during the period of closure to ensure that buildings are safe and secure. 

What about Education and Training Boards?

ETBs are to stop all face-to-face learning activities but staff will be encouraged to work remotely and staff will be placed on special leave. 

Can I still go to university?

All face-to-face lectures, tutorials and meetings have been cancelled until March 29 but staff are encouraged to work remotely.