Ireland’s schools will be able to cope with the tens of thousands of new Ukrainian students they will be welcoming in the coming weeks, the Education Minister has told Newstalk breakfast.
More than 2,500 Ukrainian have already arrived in Ireland after fleeing the Russian invasion and many more are expected in the coming weeks.
The government has said as many as 100,000 people may arrive as the war continues, around one-third of them children who need to attend school.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Minister Norma Foley said finding them all school places “won’t be easy” – but said her department will “do what is necessary” to see it happen.
“I just want to say in the first instance, there are many students from Ukraine already in our school environment,” she said.
“I visited a school last week and a student had arrived and was very happily working away in class and very much welcomed by the students.
“I spoke with a number of principals over the weekend and one of them informed me that a family had arrived on Friday and the child was already in school on Monday.
“So, I do want to say that the education system is very capable and very flexible on an ongoing basis - and has done it prior to this particular crisis - in welcoming new students.”
"Not going to be easy"
She said she is “very conscious that much more needs to be done” to prepare for the thousands of new arrivals.
“I am going to be very honest and say it is not going to be easy,” she said.
“It will certainly bring challenges, but I do think that all of us in society are very conscious that not one of us would like to walk in the footsteps of a mother who is trying to find safe passage for her children - a safe haven for her children - and I think it behoves us all to do what we need to do.
“I have every confidence the education sector will do that.”
Minister Foley said she has asked the Department of children to locate families in areas that have extra school capacity where possible.
“We are very clear at this point where there is absolute capacity in our system and, indeed, equally clear where there isn’t capacity in other areas around the country,” she said.
“We are asking where possible - it may not always be possible - that those areas where there is additional capacity might initially be the targeted areas to welcome families and children.
“We also have in place a variety of resources from our network of psychologist in terms of how to deal with war and we have helplines in place for our principals.”
She said government is taking a cross-departmental approach to allocating extra resources to families arriving into Ireland from Ukraine.