Circular 15/2021 – Additional Supports to Schools to Support the Running of the Leaving Certificate and Leaving Certificate Applied Examinations and the Accredited Grades Process in 2021

See Attached for your information, Circular 15/2021 – Additional Supports to Schools to Support the Running of the Leaving Certificate and Leaving Certificate Applied Examinations and the Accredited Grades Process in 2021, which issued by email to schools this morning.


Circular S15 2021 Additional Support To Schools_07.04.2021

Digital Learning before and after Covid: key findings from NAPD member survey

Digital Learning before and after Covid: key findings from NAPD member survey

Darina Scully, Paula Lehane & Conor Scully

In March 2020, schools across the world began to close as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with country-wide closures in place in 193 of the world’s 195 countries by the start of April.  At the time of writing, it is almost one year to the day that Irish schools were forced suddenly and unexpectedly to engage in remote teaching and learning, and despite re-opening in September, further closures were subsequently enforced and continue to be in place following a sharp rise in case numbers over Christmas.  As school leaders are acutely aware, this past year has presented significant challenges for the education sector.   Digital technology has also played a more prominent role in everyday teaching and learning than ever before.

In June of last year, we invited NAPD members to participate in an online survey on the topic of digital learning.  It focused specifically on three major themes:

  • leaders’ own beliefs regarding, and attitudes towards, the use of digital technology in the classroom
  • the extent to which schools were equipped for digital learning and were using digital technologies in innovative ways prior to the pandemic, and
  • how schools adapted to remote learning during the first major lockdown, including the challenges and opportunities encountered

Anecdotally speaking, there tends to be some variation in terms of access to and use of digital technologies in Irish post-primary schools.  We wanted to gain a better understanding of the extent of this variation and to determine, for example, whether school characteristics and/or leaders’ own attitudes towards technology were associated with certain patterns of technology uptake and use.  We also sought to understand if any of this impacted on schools’ experiences after the transition to remote learning.

Despite the exceptional circumstances in which schools were operating at the time, 72 school leaders completed the survey, providing data for approximately 10% of post-primary schools in the country.  This is a relatively modest but nonetheless acceptable response rate, and the sample was broadly representative of the underlying population of schools, with the exception of voluntary schools being slightly over-represented (58% in the study v. 53% in the population) and vocational schools slightly under-represented (27% v. 34%).

Digital Learning pre-Covid
Our findings suggest that the vast majority of schools had sufficient technological infrastructure and a vision for how technology should be used in their school in place prior to the pandemic. Leaders also, for the most part, professed that their teachers were encouraged to integrate technology in the classroom, and to participate in Continuous Professional Development (CPD) related to technology (Table 1).


School leaders generally reported high levels of personal technological competence and expressed positive beliefs about the potential for digital technology to benefit teaching and learning (Table 2, relative statements shaded in blue and green respectively).  The belief that certain changes to curricular content and/or pedagogical practices must happen before technology integration can be achieved was also widely – though not universally – endorsed (Table 2, relative statements shaded orange). This is noteworthy, as the global literature on digital learning continues to reinforce the importance of this message.  The trap of “technocentrism”, whereby technology is used without appropriate adjustments to pedagogy, is thought to limit the utility of digital technologies, and may even create sub-optimal conditions for learning.

Table 2 – Leaders’ own practices with and personal beliefs about technology use

The incorporation of pedagogical changes alongside technological advancements has also been recognised at policy level in Ireland.  Indeed, a key principle of the government’s 2015 Digital Strategy for Schools and the associated Digital Learning Framework (DLF) is that the use of technology should be underpinned by a constructivist pedagogical orientation, whereby learners are ‘actively involved in a process of determining meaning and knowledge for themselves’, and teachers ‘take a more facilitative role, providing student-centred guidance and feedback’.

In light of this, it is interesting to note the responses regarding teachers’ pedagogical practices with technology before the pandemic.  Those surveyed tended to report that the vast majority of their staff regularly used technology to present information in class or to create resources, but that fewer used it to support inquiry based learning, or for assessment and feedback purposes (Table 3). As for the specific tools used, presentation and word-processing software were the most frequently cited, while the likes of concept-mapping tools and simulation/modelling software were reportedly used by very few teachers prior to the onset of the pandemic (Table 4).



Remote Learning during the March-May 2020 Closures
All respondents reported that their school made provisions for the continuity of teaching and learning during the first lockdown period. In the majority (65%) of cases, this was done through predominantly asynchronous methods (i.e. pre-recorded teacher presentations and independent assignments, combined with a small number of live online classes).  About one-third of leaders reported that lesson provision during school closures was either fully or predominantly live (Figure 1).

Urban schools were more likely than rural schools to report using predominantly synchronous methods (46% v. 10%), as were voluntary schools compared to vocational or comprehensive schools (44% v. 18%). Leaders’ own technological orientations did not have a significant impact on whether synchronous teaching methods were favoured.  According to 70% of leaders, traditional summer examinations were replaced with alternative assessments, although rural schools were more likely to continue with a traditional examination format (48% v. 17%).

Overall, 85% of school leaders reported that teaching and learning was ‘somewhat’ or ‘severely’ compromised (Figure 2).


The most notable challenges faced during the first lockdown period were poor student engagement, lack of internet or device access in students’ homes, and teachers’ lack of proficiency in appropriate pedagogic approaches to support technology-based learning.  Indeed, more than half of school leaders described these as “moderate” or “significant” barriers to the continuity of teaching and learning (Table 5, relevant statements shaded in orange).

The ‘Digital Divide’ rears its head
Leaders of DEIS schools were more likely to describe the quality of provision as ‘severely’ compromised (50% v. 19%).  This was reportedly due to a combination of factors, including the loss of supports such as the Home School Liaison Service, as well as problems with student access to appropriate devices at home. Leaders of schools in rural areas spoke of particular difficulties stemming from poor internet connectivity in student’s homes.  Both of these issues provide clear evidence of the much talked-about ‘digital divide’ that exists across different sectors of Irish society, a key source of educational disadvantage that presents a significant challenge to the advancement of digital learning more generally.  Indeed, although students’ home learning environments have undoubtedly assumed added importance during the pandemic, it is important to note that they are not insignificant at other times. Digital technology theoretically allows for ‘anytime-anywhere’ learning to occur, but if schools are to adopt a more digital approach in the wake of Covid-19, it is important to factor in device provision and internet connectivity in students’ homes. The DLF does not explicitly foreground the role of students’ home learning environments, which may explain why teaching and learning was so impacted by Covid-19 in spite of school leaders reporting adherence to many elements of the Framework.

Pedagogical changes still lag behind
Interestingly, those whose schools relied predominantly on asynchronous methods were more likely to rate the quality of provision during the pandemic as being ‘severely compromised’.  This is at odds with the consensus from the online education literature that neither method is superior, and that each can and should be used to complement the other.  Of course it may be the case that these leaders simply perceived things to be this way.  However, it is also worth noting that much of the pre-2020 literature pertains to planned online programmes in higher education contexts in which the pedagogical approaches that best support technology-based learning are well established.  In that sense, it is perhaps unsurprising that a cohort of teachers whose use of technology was, for the most part, embedded in more traditional pedagogical approaches, reportedly struggled more in asynchronous environments.  Anecdotal reports from the current period of school closures suggest that some of these struggles are gradually being overcome as teachers continue to upskill in remote pedagogy through necessity, although to the best of our knowledge, concrete data to support this are not yet available.

Looking to the future, over 80% of leaders reported that their school’s digital learning policy would undergo ‘moderate’ or ‘significant’ changes as a result of their experiences during the first lockdown; whilst every leader reported that CPD for teachers in relation to digital technology would receive some attention (Table 6). Overall, leaders were optimistic that the lessons learnt from the remote learning period would improve practice in the future, with one respondent describing digital learning as being “no longer scary” for teachers and students, and another commenting that “returning to the old way would be a missed opportunity”.

School leaders should be commended for the effort they have made – and continue to make –  to maintain learning provision.  It is evident from this study that there is a clear need for an ongoing impetus to improve equity of access for all students, and for greater provision and uptake of high quality CPD in relation to the effective use of digital technologies in the classroom.

This research was conducted by Darina Scully (Assistant Professor in Child & Adolescent Learning Development), Paula Lehane and Conor Scully (both doctoral students) at Dublin City University’s Institute of Education.  We are extremely grateful to the NAPD members who shared their experiences with us last summer.  A more detailed account of the study was recently published online in a special issue of the peer-reviewed academic journal Technology, Pedagogy and Education.  Readers with questions or comments are welcome to contact the research team for further information (

Appointment of New Director, NAPD

Michael Cregan, President of NAPD has announced that following a public competition, Mr Paul Crone, formerly Principal of Old Bawn Community School, Tallaght and currently Director of Schools in City of Dublin ETB has been appointed as Director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD).

The vacancy arose when the Director, Clive Byrne, announced his intention to retire at the end of the current school year. Mr Crone will take up his appointment on the 1stSeptember next.

Speaking after the announcement Paul commented.

“I am looking forward to taking up the position as Director of the hugely prestigious and member led association, NAPD. My experience for 11 years as a Principal in the Community and Comprehensive sector and 2 years as Director of Schools in the Education and Training Board sector has given me opportunities and experiences to develop a vision for NAPD to harness and articulate the collective voice of school leaders throughout the 3 sectors in Irish education.

I look forward to working with the National Executive, the Deputy Director and Head Office team and connecting with the regions to hear the concerns of members to see how NAPD can best represent school leaders. Continuing and building on the strong traditions of NAPD will ensure that the voice of school leaders is represented in all discussions that impact on school development and that support is provided to inspire Principals and Deputy Principals to achieve their leadership potential in a sustainable way. The strength of NAPD is in our unity and together we will move forward in strength.”


NAPD looks forward to the next phase of development under Paul’s leadership.

State Examinations Commission Leaving Certificate Oral Language Examinations 2021 Guidance to School Management

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to school management and teachers for the planning, organising, carrying out and recording of the 2021 Leaving Certificate oral interviews. In addition to this school guidance document, there are language-specific sets of instructions for the teachers who will carry out the interviews, which will issue separately.

The procedures to be followed include those detailed in the body of this Guidance document and in the Appendices. Particular attention is drawn to Appendix 1 – Technical information in relation to the recording of the interviews.

The documentation and materials referred to in this document, to facilitate the conduct of the 2021 orals, will issue to schools in advance of the commencement of the oral interview window on 26 March.


SEC_Orals_Guidance to school management Final – Full document to download

REMINDER Students have only 2days left to record their Leaving Certificate choices on the Candidate Portal

REMINDER Students have only 2days left to record their Leaving Certificate choices on the Candidate Portal.  It is essential that all students complete the registration and subject selection process before the deadline of Tuesday 16 March at 6 pm.  Any student who has registered but not made their subject specific selections should arrange to do so without delay.  Remember, the process is not complete until you have received the email from the SEC with details of your subject specific selections from the SEC.   Students are urged to not leave this important process until the last minute.  Any student in need of assistance with completing the process or making their decisions should ask their teacher or contact the office for advice.

#FlagDay2021 Tuesday 16th March



National Flag Day 2021
Second level schools all around the country will be taking part in the Foundation’s socially distant and virtual Flag Day tomorrow Tuesday 16th March on the eve of St. Patricks Day proudly demonstrating their commitment to active citizenship in their communities and their knowledge of our Flag’s message of peace and unity, by raising the Irish flag and recognising the flags of all nationalities in their communities. In a modern and diverse Ireland, it is critical that people of all backgrounds and creeds understand and gather around the meaning of the Irish flag for peace, respect, diversity and inclusion. The raising of the flag particularly in 2021 symbolises a “coming together” to create a community of hope for Irelands’ future.

Annual Supplement in conjunction with the Irish Independent – The People’s Flag 
This years supplement The People’s Flag was published on Friday in the Irish Independent and a copy will be posted to you this week. We very much hope that you will get the chance to read and enjoy it over the coming days.


The Supplement this year included our fantastic Kerry Group Awards & Scholarship Winners, our Challenge Partner Gaisce (The Presidents Awards) amazing work with young people, Local Authorities supporting our schools, articles on the battle for women’s rights in Ireland after partition and the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918-19 plus four lesson plans with themes exploring cultural identity both North and South after partition including a lesson plan as Gaeilge and much more.

The Thomas F. Meagher Foundation Honorary Board – Ambassadors for the Foundation

In the run up to this years Flag Day our wonderful Honorary Board Member Packie Bonner made some media appearances in the past week.  Appearing on the Six O’ Clock show speaking about the importance of Flag Day as well as reminiscing about Italia’90 and on the Elaine Show on Friday afternoon – both are available on the Virgin media TV player here.

There was also an excellent article written by Richard Hogan for the Examiner last week featuring Packie and Sanita Puspure on the true meaning of our flag.

Sanita and Zak Moradi contributed to the opening article of the supplement and were interviewed by the features editor for the Irish Independent.

Packie will also be chatting to Ray D’Arcy on RTE Radio 1 @ 3.30pm tomorrow Flag Day. We would like to say a special word of thanks to Packie for his incredible support this past week and also extend our thanks to Sanita and Zak for their valuable contributions during these busy times.

We would also like to give a warm welcome to our new Honorary Board Members who have joined us recently, Zak Moradi, Adam Byrne, Colm Cooper, Edwina Guckian, Diarmuid Gavin, Matt Molloy and Clive Byrne. All of our ambassadors play a pivotal role in success of the Foundation helping to share our message and we are truly grateful.

National Flag Day Virtual Support 

Compu b Upgrading is more rewarding than ever.

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In with the old.

Staff and students can also support by bringing their unwanted Apple tech into school to help offset the cost a new school classroom iPad bundle.

Our simple videos and frequently asked questions make it easy for staff and students to bring their eligible Apple devices to school.

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Compu b invite you to a free Apple in Education webinar.

Discover how Compu b’s education specialists can support your school’s technology refresh plan.

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Time: 4.30pm – 5.30pm

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Terms and conditions

  • Compu b Trade-in programme is a service provided to Compu b customers by Compu b’s selected trade-in partners. Trade-in transactions conducted with customers are solely the responsibility of Compu b’s selected trade-in partner and the customer. Terms and conditions apply.
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  • 1 “Save up to an additional €1000 off a new classroom iPad bundle” offer is for education purposes only. Offer available from 5th March 2021. Promotional trade-in top-up is limited to a particular sale quantity. When this limit is reached the promotion will be removed immediately.
  • Offer entitles schools to trade-in eligible devices and for a limited time receive double the typical trade in-valuation on each eligible device. Maximum additional top-up of €1,000 applies. Typical trade-in value and top up must be redeemed against a purchase of at least 16 classroom iPad bundles. Double your trade-in offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotion. Compu b reserve the right to amend or cancel these promotions at any time.
  • 2 Estimated trade-in value based on 16 x iPad Air 16GB Wifi 1st gen. each with a trade-in value of €77.49 inclusive of VAT / based on 30 x iPad Air 16GB Wifi 1st Gen. each with a trade-in value of €77.49 inclusive of VAT. Prices correct at time of publishing.
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Re: FORSA’s recent communication to Special Needs Assistants – Letter to School Managerial Bodies primary and post primary

To: School Managerial Bodies primary and post primary


Re: FORSA’s recent communication to Special Needs Assistants


Dear Colleague in Education,

I refer to the recent communication issued by Fórsa entitled “Advice on SNAs carrying out complex care for students”. As this communication has considerable potential to mislead and to cause confusion among schools as well as anxiety to the families they serve particularly during this time of pandemic and the sensitivity of the issues around reopening schools. The purpose of this letter is to confirm and clarify certain matters referenced in the Fórsa correspondence.


SNA Duties

Contrary to the view conveyed in the recent communication, there is clarity on the role and functions of SNAs.  There has been no change in SNA duties which are outlined in various circulars previously issued to schools.  Indeed, these circulars provide the basis for the contracts of SNAS who are currently employed by our schools.


Should there be any doubt or lack of clarity in this respect, it is open to any party to raise issues through the recently established IR Forum which was established for this purpose.




The information provided by Fórsa in the recent communication includes that Fórsa supports those SNAs who refuse to carry out catheterisation whilst also providing guidance on what training and risk assessments must be in place in order for an SNA to undertake this duty, should they so choose. This suggests that catheterisation is an optional duty.


The Department has a clear and long-held position on this duty which has been set out to Fórsa previously, and which for clarity I have restated below.  As you know, this matter was raised by the Official Side at the last SNA IR Forum in December 2020 due to issues arising in particular schools and the Department position was made clear.



SNA Contract

SNAs are recruited specifically to assist schools in providing the necessary non–teaching services to pupils with primary care needs that cannot be supported by the teacher or other supports in the school. The SNA contract as set out in Department Circulars 12/2005 and 15/2005 clearly states in Appendix 1 that the duties of an SNA involve tasks of a non-teaching nature such as:


“Assistance with clothing, feeding, toileting and general hygiene and being mindful of health and safety needs of the pupil.”


This toileting duty is also restated in Section 4 of Department circular 30 of 2014 as follows:


Assistance with toileting and general hygiene: (including catheterisation)

Catheterisation is a primary care need which may warrant SNA support where self-catheterisation is not possible.

A medically qualified person is not required to perform this function in a school.


Where a pupil with significant care needs cannot independently self-toilet, the SNA is responsible for supporting the pupil in this regard until such time as he/she is able to do so.


Clarification of the Department’s position has issued to Management Bodies and Schools previously and is enclosed for your information.

As you might be aware in September 2018, the Labour Court noted the following in respect of a case relating to 23 SNAs in Scoil Mochua in respect of the duties of SNAs:

“The Court, having read the parties’ submissions and listened carefully to the submissions on the day, notes that both parties concurred that assisting children with toileting needs was part of an SNAs duties.”


Failure to comply with the direction of the Principal Teacher in this regard can be regarded as a breach of contract which could lead to the invocation of disciplinary procedures against the SNA (DE Circular 72/2011). In fact, there are disciplinary proceedings underway by one school in this regard.



It is a matter for each school to ensure that the SNA(s) is in a position to effectively meet the care needs of the pupils in their care.

Once appropriate training has been provided then the SNA should attend to the care needs of the child as directed by the school.

Where a care need has a specialist nature, e.g. catheterisation, peg feeding, suctioning a tracheostomy, training should be provided to the SNA. The school should liaise with an appropriate professional, for example, a registered nurse or HSE specialist/adviser so that an SNA is provided with appropriate guidance and training in order to meet the care needs of the pupil(s) in his/her care.  In some instances, parents may be the most appropriate trainers for SNAs, for example, in relation to the catheterisation needs of their child in the school environment.



The HSE is responsible for the provision of medical services including nursing care for children in this country and this Department has neither policy responsibility for nor does it provide funding to support the employment of nurses in schools.  Currently, there is nursing support provided to students with complex medical needs in some schools, mainly special schools but this is provided through funding from the HSE or by other service providers attached to schools.  In these schools, the nurses work seamlessly alongside school staff including teachers and SNAs.

Funding was recently provided to this Department to undertake a pilot project to supplement the existing service so as to assist children with complex medical needs who require nursing support in order to attend school.  Work is underway with the Department of Health, the HSE and the NCSE on how this could work in an effective way and progress is expected shortly. It is important to appreciate that the purpose of this initiative is to extend an existing service and not the creation of a new scheme of in-school support.

It is not envisaged that this development will impact on the role of SNAs and any outcome of this pilot is intended to enhance existing HSE nursing supports but not replace the contractual duties of SNAs which are already well known and understood


SNA Indemnity

The Fórsa communication also raises the issue of SNA indemnity while carrying out their work in a recognised school. You may be aware that school Boards of Management are required to ensure that comprehensive insurance cover is in place to safeguard the school and those employed by the school as set out in the Governance Manual for Primary Schools 2019-2023.  Recognizing that there is a number of school insurance arrangements in place, the standard insurance arrangements do provide an indemnity to school staff including SNAs provided they are carrying out their duties under the direction of school management.



Yours sincerely,



Eddie Ward

Principal Officer

Special Education


letter to management bodies – Download Letter

Report on Welfare Committee meeting – 25th February, 2021

Report on Welfare Committee meeting – 25th February, 2021


Initial contact has been made with Philip Riley and a provisional arrangement has been made for online meeting with him in early March 2001.


Meeting discussed the feedback and responses received from members in relation to issues of concern.


It was agreed that the Committee would review what might be reasonably expected of Principals and Deputy Principals to ensure good and safe working conditions in line with legislative requirements.


Feedback indicated that the use of online regional meetings was developing a sense of collegiality among members; that there was a very good collaborative sharing of ideas and knowledge and that this was enhanced by the fact that the Director and/or the Deputy Director and/or the President could and did attend these meetings.


Membership identified that there was a need for a greater level of engagement and consultation by all the educational partners (DES; Management Bodies, Unions, SEC, etc.) with school leaders at ground level. It was agreed that the use of online focus groups would greatly assist with this process – matter to be followed up by Head Office.


Feedback indicated that the Regional Ambassadors initiative was a great source of support as it gave school leaders the opportunity to sit down with the ambassadors in their own offices and share their concerns and know that these concerns would be made known to the Directors and National Executive. It was agreed that this initiative should be revived as soon as circumstances allow.


The frequency and workload attaching to BoM meetings was discussed in light of feedback received and it was agreed that the Chair and Director would do some additional work in relation to this issue.


Committee agreed to investigate the possibility of providing professional supervision to members to support them in their work roles


The setting up of a confidential non-directive telephone support service for members was welcomed and was perceived as a significant and essential development in supporting individual school leaders to carry out the demands of their role in the context of a sustainable work-life balance.


Meeting updated about NAPD Conference in April 2021 and It was agreed that a subcommittee would work to identify facilitators for well-being and welfare workshops and a possible key note speaker.

NAPD Preretirement Programme March 2021

NAPD is pleased to announce a comprehensive Preretirement Programme for members considering retirement this year or next year.  The programme offers a holistic approach to this important transition.  An expert team will guide participants through the technical elements of pension application and entitlements, financial planning, taxation and legal issues. In addition, the programme will focus on positively managing the personal, family and social transitions that retirement necessitates and health and lifestyle advice.  The programme has been modified for online delivery.

For Registration please click here

Registration Costs:

  • NAPD Members: €25
  • NAPD Non-Members €200

For further details and registration or contact Michelle or Lisa at  (01) 6627025 or


Please download the Course Outline Pre-Retirement Course Outline for 2 days – 2021