News & Media

No child’s schooling should be a casualty of Covid-19

30 April 2021

Statement by Senator Ivana Bacik
Seanad Group Leader and Spokesperson on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration

Worrying figures reported by the Irish Times this morning show that a huge number of children are slipping through the cracks as a result of Covid-19 school closures. Labour spokesperson on children Senator Ivana Bacik has urged the Government to heed advice from the Labour Party and implement a ‘Catch Up for Children’ scheme to provide supports for vulnerable children in particular who may not have returned to school as a result of Covid-19. 

Senator Bacik said:

“There was a huge sense of joy and relief when all schools reopened this month. However, unfortunately this feeling was not shared equally. It is deeply worrying to see reports that 4,500 children did not return to the classroom when schools reopened following Covid closures. It is reported that 57% of these children did not return for Covid-19 - related reasons, while others may have chosen to go on to further education or to begin working. My colleague and Labour’s Education Spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has repeatedly highlighted the disproportionate impact that prolonged school closures would have on vulnerable and disadvantaged children, and unfortunately it seems this has come to pass. 

“An analysis must be undertaken urgently to assess the damage caused by school closures. The lives of our children and young people have been severely and disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and time is of the essence if we are to reverse this effect. The Government must act quickly to identify where is the most acute need for supports. In order to address the needs in particular of those children who are still not able to go back to school, the Government needs to set up a dedicated ‘Catch Up for Children’ fund.  

“We estimate that €100 million in funding should be put in place to target recovery in lost learning, focusing on one to one and small group tutoring programmes, as well as supporting the return to school and development for disadvantaged children in early years settings and summer provision for those pupils who need it the most. Given the figures reported in the Irish Times this morning, it’s clear that a range of high-quality targeted online resources are also still required to reach out to children who are unable to return to the classroom due to Covid-19 concerns. We know that making up for lost learning is a long-term challenge. But we in the Labour Party firmly believe that no child should be left behind. 

“The long-term effects of this troubling situation will worsen, the longer they are left unaddressed. With summer holidays for secondary schools approaching rapidly, urgent interventions must be made if we are to prevent increased numbers of young people from leaving the education system without completing secondary school because they did not receive enough support this year.We will continue to work with organisations representing the youth work sector, children and young people to seek commitments on funding to assess and address the damaging impacts upon children caused by prolonged closures of schools. But the evidence is clear, this is an issue that the Government cannot continue to ignore. 

“All of our children should be treated equally and be given the chance to fulfil their potential. It is deeply concerning to see the gap caused by Covid in children’s schooling. No child should be left behind. Children cannot bear the brunt of this pandemic just because they are voiceless. I urge the Government to implement a ‘Catch Up for Children’ scheme to help give every child an equal start at life.”