A graphic rendering of the COVID-19 virus

COVID-19 Plan for re-opening of third level from September

Maura O'Shea

By Maura O'Shea

Posted: 16 June, 2021

The new plan for the safe return to on-site activity for higher and further education for September has been published by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris.

Higher and further education and training, and research, are essential activities, and the plan for the 2021/22 academic year is for mainly on-site activity for all students, learners, and staff.

At a minimum, the following can take place:

•           Laboratory teaching and learning

•           Classroom based teaching and learning

•           Tutorials

•           Workshops

•           Smaller lectures

•           Research

•           Workspaces

•           Libraries

•           Canteens – operational in accordance with public health advice on work place canteens

•           Sports facilities – operational in accordance with public health advice

•           Clubs and societies – operational in accordance with public health advice

•           Bars – operational in accordance with public health advice

At a maximum large scale lectures will also be allowed with modifications.

Minister Harris said: “Today is a really exciting moment. Students, staff and our third level institutions have shown incredible resilience over the past year but we all agree we cannot have another year like this.

“We have worked with all our stakeholders and public health and created this plan to resume third level education – from apprenticeships to further education and higher education. College was mainly online last year. From September, it will be mainly onsite.

“This is a return to on-campus teaching in a safe, structured way. Each college will now prepare their own plans on this basis and report to students and staff.

“To students, I want to say education and training is not just about what you learn.  It’s about how you learn, the people you learn with, and the experience of being with others. You are going to be back on-site this autumn.  It will not be exactly the same as it was before, but you will be there. Your safety and your wellbeing is our priority.”

The plan, which has been approved by public health, will be reviewed every month and Minister Harris will revert to Government over the summer months on the plan.

The sector will build a robust system to support reopening in 2021 including facilitating and supporting the vaccination programme for students, learners and staff, promoting of symptom awareness and tracking, and self-management of their own health by students, learners and staff, supporting pathways for symptomatic students, learners and staff to PCR testing and engaging strongly with local and national public health advice and guidance.

In addition, there will be provision for further and higher education and training, including on-site presence for apprentices, English Language Education, and the resumption of research activity, over the summer months. Appropriate protective measures will be in place and numbers on site will be controlled.

This approach to returning on-site over the summer period will assist institutions and providers in organising and managing the safe return of larger numbers in the autumn.

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