Schools are to be given additional teaching hours to help mitigate the impact that school closures and other Covid-related restrictions have had on the learning and wellbeing of students.

The extra hours will cost a total of €52.6 million.

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 which serve disadvantaged communities.

Details of the Covid Learning and Supports Scheme (CLASS) were announced today by Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister of State for Special Education Josepha Madigan.

Minister Norma Foley said schools were being provided with flexibility and could 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.

She said schools would be able to begin using the hours from next month.

The programme allows for shared learning opportunities between schools.

The Department of Education has also said it will ensure that research is undertaken into the impacts of disruption to learning and on the impact of mitigation measures.

Ms Madigan said students with special educational needs would benefit directly from the sharing of knowledge and good practice by schools and the research programme.

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".

General Secretary Michael Gillespie said however it was important to highlight that significant further targeted investment will be required in the next Budget and in the years ahead to assist the most vulnerable students in the education system.

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."