With almost 18,000 Ukrainian students currently enrolled in Irish schools, the ETB community has shown leadership in the effort to integrate students from Ukraine into the Irish education system where a 91% enrolment rate among Ukrainian children aged 5-18 is the most successful in Europe. From ETB coordination of the Regional Education and Language Teams (REALTs) to the very human response and supports offered locally by ETBs, we hear about one school’s experience.

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Parent Alla Titova, whose son Ihor Titov is in 3rd year and arrived in Ireland in May 2022, says of Louth and Meath ETB’s St. Oliver’s Community College.

We have had a very welcoming and positive experience at St. Oliver’s Community College. From day one our son was made feel welcome and has received lots of support from staff and students. I want to thank everyone at St. Oliver’s for helping Ukrainians and supporting all of us during this most difficult time of our lives

Louth and Meath ETB’s St. Oliver’s Community College students from Ukraine pictured with Special Needs Assistant, Oksana Hrechka also from Ukraine, following a charity event organised by the students

Vice Principal of St. Oliver’s, Trudy Rossiter agrees: “The needs of the students and their families are huge when they arrive in Ireland. The families are under extreme pressure as a result of the relocation, in many cases having suffered extreme trauma. In the first few months of 2022, the Senior Leadership Team, school secretaries and our two key staff met with all families and children individually to fill in application forms, facilitate transport arrangements and advise and provide uniforms, books, copies and schoolbags. It was a whole-school effort.”

Trudy points out the essential role provided by LMETB’s REALT Coordinator Sinéad Donnelly: “It has been amazing having Sinéad as a support to us in REALT. She really goes over and beyond to look out for the students and ensure that every resource is in place to support their education. Sinéad meets and assesses the needs of the individual students and makes appropriate applications for school places, ensuring that they commence their education in a timely manner. She also ensures that every resource is in place to support the students’ education and has been able to advise us of any additional educational needs. This has meant that all students are best placed within our year groups when they arrive and that the important details like transport arrangements are in place from their first day”.

The appointment of a REALT Coordinator has enabled the school to focus on the wellbeing of our students and to link them with appropriate support with the Guidance Department, Additional Needs Department, Art Psychotherapist and with their Ukrainian Special Needs Assistant Oksana to ensure that the students’ needs are being met. “REALT has added an additional layer of support in the system – to school administration, to Principals and Deputy Principals and to families” says Trudy.

In May 2023, students from Ukraine hosted a fundraising event at lunchtime in aid of children in Ukraine. They sent food, school supplies and toys to young people in Ukraine. St. Oliver’s then received a video message from school workers expressing their thanks to St. Oliver’s Ukrainian students. They also sent a Ukrainian flag, signed by members of the school community. St. Oliver’s staff called the students up on stage and showed the video and then presented the flag in front of the whole school. Trudy recalls, “It was such an emotional experience: there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.” 

St. Oliver’s Community College matches the last Census exactly in terms of our student population profile – they have 40 nationalities and 45 languages. Their first Ukrainian students started in March 2022 and by May 2022 they had 47 students enrolled. The central support for students includes Ukrainian SNA Oksana Hrechka, a member of staff since 2019 and Russian teacher Oksana McNiff, who has been with the school since 2010.

For more information on ETB Regional Education and Language Teams click here

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