Almost 3,000 secondary school students look set to return to their classrooms on Monday 22 February after a deal was agreed between teacher and SNA trade unions and the Department of Education.

The returning students are those with additional educational needs who attend special classes.

The Teachers' Union of Ireland, the ASTI and Fórsa all signed off on the deal at meetings of their leadership today.

It means that 2,808 second-level students will be able to return to in-school teaching from Monday week.

The students attend 515 second level special classes staffed by 1,739 teachers and Special Needs Assistants.

Special classes for children in primary schools are also due to reopen on 22 February while special schools are due to reopen tomorrow.

In a statement, the TUI said it acknowledged the vital importance of face-to-face provision for these students.

The union said a number of concerns that it had expressed had now been addressed.

It said its executive committee had also unanimously decided to facilitate the return of Leaving Certificate students from some point in the same week, subject to public health advice.

Special schools will reopen tomorrow morning initially taking children back on a half-in-half-alternate days' basis. This is in order to allow for greater social distancing.

In a statement, the Department of Education said it had put in place a supplementary programme to support the education and/or care needs of students with complex needs at post-primary level.

"Intensive engagement is continuing with education stakeholders, towards a full return of all students to in-person teaching and learning in primary and post primary schools as soon as possible and when it is safe to do so," the statement added.

The ASTI said it has secured a range of measures to support the return of special education classes and that it would monitor the implementation of these new measures in the coming weeks.

"However, Standing Committee is of the view that the government's Framework Plan is inadequate and needs to be substantially reworked in order to ensure a safe phased return of all students in the coming period of time," the union said in a statement this evening.

"The ASTI continues to engage with the Department of Education on the safe reopening of schools for other cohorts of students," it added.