challenges | 

Schools take in 700 Ukrainian pupils but numbers are expected to rise significantly over next few weeks

Ukrainian pupils Alex Reznichenko, Stacey Teslyuk, and Myraslav Balashov (in maroon), who recently enrolled in Pobalsscoil Neasáin, Baldoyle, Dublin, with classmates Anastasia Gabaniuk and Arthurs Arajs. Photo: Damien Eagers

Education Minister Norma Foley's department is preparing for a big influx of school-aged children in the weeks ahead. Photo: Maxwells

Katherine Donnelly and Conor Feehan

Irish schools have already extended a warm welcome to about 700 Ukrainian pupils so far – but challenges are emerging.

In a fast-moving situation, with new children arriving every day, numbers are expected to grow significantly over the next few weeks.

One school and two of its new arrivals recently got a taste of the kind of issues that need to be addressed if we are to avoid compounding an already difficult situation for families.

Two teenagers, who had been happily settling into Trinity Comprehensive School in Ballymun, Dublin, became victims of a lack of joined-up thinking after they were told they had to change accommodation overnight.

Their families were moved from a nearby hotel into the city, without the means to get to school.

Education Minister Norma Foley came face-to-face with the problem when she visited Trinity Comprehensive yesterday, and officials from her department and the Department of Children got involved in efforts to organise free transport for the pupils.

Ms Foley’s department is preparing for a big influx of school-aged children in the weeks ahead.

Regional education one-stop shops will be up and running next week to ensure access to school places for children.

If nothing is available in the locality, they will find an alternative and organise transport.

There will be 16 teams operating under the umbrella of local education and training boards (ETBs), acting as a contact point for Ukrainian families or their advocates on education issues.

They will involve representatives of school management bodies, school inspectors, the National Educational Psychological Service (Neps) and the education support services of the family agency, Tusla.

Ms Foley said: “We will do all we can in terms of education provision” for incoming families. We have made it very clear to schools that where additional mainstream teachers are required, we will resource that and also English language supports.”

At Pobalscoil Neasáin, a community school in Baldoyle, Dublin, principal Pat McKenna has not only welcomed three new Ukrainian pupils, he is also arranging English classes for their mothers via the school’s adult education service.

The three pupils, Stacey Teslyuk, Alex Reznichenko, and Myraslav Balashov all have aunts living near the school. Each had made separate approaches to the principal.

Meanwhile, a free shop supplying essential items for Ukrainian refugees has opened in Dublin city centre.

The Palyanytsya centre on 44 Clarendon Street, Dublin 2, is a central location for people who have fled the conflict and arrived in Ireland since the Russian invasion of Ukraine one month ago yesterday.

It supplies clothing, shoes, toiletries, hygiene products, toys and books which have been donated by Irish people and companies.

The man behind the idea for the centre is Rusian Mocharskyy, a Ukrainian native who has lived in Ireland for 20 years. "I can't believe we're standing here now and around us we have a lot of people picking stuff up.

"Some came with literally a small suitcase or just documents depending on their circumstances,” he said.

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