Friday, January 01, 2021

THE RE-OPENING of pre-schools has been postponed until January 11 according to Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman (GP). This brings the sector in line with the planned re-opening of primary and secondary schools.

In a statement released this afternoon, Minister O’Gorman said the decision had been made “following consultation with the early learning and childcare sector”.

The statement reads: “The reintroduction of full Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions was previously announced by Government on 30 December. Under these restrictions and in line with the Plan for Living with Covid-19, it was announced that early learning and childcare services and schools will continue to operate in Level 5 and are deemed essential, with early learning and childcare services reopening after the Christmas break as usual and schools reopening at a slightly later date of 11 January.”

Yesterday, Minister O’Gorman met with the Early Learning and Childcare Covid-19 Advisory Group to further discuss this matter.

“Representatives from the Advisory Group shared their concerns about the full resumption of early learning and childcare from early January,” reads the statement.

“While accepting the need to maintain early learning and childcare for priority groups, the Advisory Group asked that the pre-school programme (ECCE) would be aligned with the reopening of schools on 11 January. The Minister has agreed with his Cabinet colleagues that the pre-school programme can resume at a slightly later date of 11 January.”

The ECCE pre-school programme is delivered by over 4,000 services nationwide and over 100,000 children are currently enrolled on this programme.

“By postponing the return of these children to the pre-school programme, social mixing will be reduced, which will help to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the post-Christmas period. The pre-school programme will now resume on 11 January, in line with the reopening of schools. The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth will provide funding to providers for the pre-school programme for the week of January 4 to 8.”

Under full Level 5 restrictions, early learning and childcare services, including childminders that provide services other than (or in addition to) the pre-school programme, can continue to operate. These services continue to provide an essential service which supports parents going to work.

“Minister O’Gorman has asked these services, which are private businesses, to reopen as planned from January 4 to provide childcare, particularly to priority groups,” according to this afternoon’s statement.

“The department will provide guidance to services on how to prioritise demand for places in their services, if they are short staffed and unable to reopen with a full staff complement for the week of January 4 to 8.”

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