Welcome news to thousands of school children across Ireland.

According to Minister for Education, Norma Foley, and Minister of State for Special Education, Josepha Madigan, schools across the country will be given additional teaching hours this year to help mitigate the impact that school closures – and other Covid-related restrictions – have had on the learning and wellbeing of students.

Speaking yesterday, Minister Foley stated that schools would be able to begin using the hours from next month. She also stated that schools are being provided with flexibility and can use their expertise to determine how to use these additional hours in a way that best suits the needs of the children and young people in their school.

Schools will receive their additional allocation based on the number of pupils they have enrolled, with enhanced allocations for special schools and for DEIS schools that serve disadvantaged communities.

The additional teaching hours have been welcomed by the Teachers Union of Ireland as “a starting point in addressing the situation of those students who are most at risk as a result of the many challenges posed by Covid-19”.

Primary teachers’ union the INTO said it had long called for additional resources from the Department of Education to support what it called “our schools’ tremendous efforts to help pupils who have faced learning deficits or difficulties as a result of these challenges.” General Secretary John Boyle said today’s scheme was a welcome development.

“Schools are best placed to assess the needs of their pupils, in line with what we understand will be detailed guidance from the department on the eligibility and operation of the scheme.

“We welcome the extra supports for schools in areas of acute educational disadvantage within the scheme. However, more resources are likely to be needed and we will continue to seek additional support where necessary.”

The Covid Learning and Supports Scheme (CLASS) was launched earlier this week, and will come at a cost of  €52.6 million.