Being a kid or a young person in Ireland these past two years has been a surreal and challenging experience. Nearly all of the things they once took for granted - hugging grandparents, hanging out with friends, going to the cinema, travelling - ceased overnight.

But perhaps the most traumatic effect of all came from the closure of all schools and childcare facilities.But while the impact on education is well established, we all know that the consequences spiraled out much further than that: our kids became more isolated, more anxious, and far less sure of the world they live in.

Remote learning became the norm. While most secondary schools were able to embrace online teaching, remote learning presented many problems for primary schools and younger children especially. In RTÉ, we could see ourselves how daily routines were evaporating for both parents and kids; we could hear and feel the cry for some sort of connection, for structure, and for guidance. We were acutely aware of the huge burden on teachers and primary schools to bridge the gap without having access to all of the resources necessary. And so, RTÉ decided to provide school on the telly. The Home School Hub was born.

Home School Hub
Home School Hub

The challenge? Meet the needs of primary school kids and their parents by providing curriculum-based learning, as well as an entertainment and escape, not only on television, but in audio, on social media, and online. The real challenge? How could we get a high quality series to air in the middle of a global pandemic!

The answer to both challenges lies in the incredible teams that came together to make Home School Hub happen. It was public service media at its best: Home School Hub made a real difference to people's lives; it helped kids deal with the trauma of uncertainty, and provided a daily routine for both parents and kids.

"It helped kids deal with the trauma of uncertainty, and provided a daily routine for both parents and kids."

If Home School Hub was the very essence of public service broadcasting during a global pandemic, then News2day, RTÉ’s dedicated news service for kids, lives that public service mission every day, week in and week out. Cleverly crafted to deliver and distil complex and hard-hitting topics for our younger viewers, RTÉ is the only provider of this type of daily news, made to the highest possible quality, and made for young people.

News2Day
News2Day

Of course, growing up in a digital age is challenging. But the digital sphere also opens up a world of possibility. RTÉ Kids, and RTÉjr, are spaces for young people that mirror and respond to their own lives, and, crucially, offers them platforms and inspiration for their own creativity. The nationwide digital art competition, This Is Art and, more recently, Ireland’s Future Is Mine, our e-sports primary school Minecraft challenge, are hugely important projects that sought to meet kids where they are and create pathways to not only engage with RTÉ, but also to have their say.

Public Service Media supports so many facets of our culture in ways that private media can’t, or won’t, support. If something like Home School Hub shows us how vital public media is in a pandemic, then consider how vital the support of public service media is to so many sectors, all year round. RTÉ, for example, continues to support Ireland’s stellar animation industry, which gives Irish kids some of the best animation in the world, and from a perspective native to them.

Pablo
Pablo

And RTÉ Kids and RTÉjr also pride themselves on delivering the most wonderful, thought-provoking audio content too, available on RTÉjr Radio, Ireland’s only radio service just for kids. The ever-increasing collection of world-class kids podcast content has had some stand-out collaborators, including Oscar-nominated actor Ciarán Hinds, and Mary Robinson.

If, in emerging from the pandemic, priorities have shifted for both young and old, then it’s fair to say priorities have shifted for RTÉ too. RTÉ is working hard to constantly update its offering to mirror these altering priorities and moods, to connect with kids where they are, and deliver content wherever and however they want it. RTÉ’s mission is to deliver engaging, relevant and entertaining content with and for our kids and young people: our platforms are theirs, in every sense.

All our futures, and the future of public service media itself, is in their hands.