INTO: Unlikely that schools will reopen in June

The general secretary of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO), John Boyle has said that it is unlikely that schools will reopen in June.
INTO: Unlikely that schools will reopen in June
General secretary of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO), John Boyle

The general secretary of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO), John Boyle has said that it is unlikely that schools will reopen in June.

Getting children back to school in September will be a “mammoth planning task” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

"With 20 school days to go before the summer break, it would be very difficult for schools to reopen, even on a phased basis."

Mr Boyle warned that it may not be possible for all children to return at the same time in September as there will be logistical issues-particularly in rural Ireland where many children travel to school by bus.

"Ireland has the largest school classes in Europe so it would not be possible for all pupils to return at the same time," he added.

"There will also have to be changes on school campuses which parents will not be able to access in the same way they did previously."

If the Leaving Cert could not go ahead, Mr Boyle said he could not see how it would be possible for groups of younger children to return to school.

Children with complex educational needs will be provided for through summer programmes.

The INTO has been engaging with stakeholders to prepare for the return of children to school and to see if it would be possible for all children to return at the same time.

The teachers’ union is “certainly up for that challenge,” he added.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Newstalk FM it is not the Government’s intention to re-open schools ahead of September.

“The Department of Education and the teachers’ unions and all the partners in education are examining that and looking at what’s happening in other countries and seeing how we’re going to open the schools in a practical way, and a safe way in September.”

He said any decision to re-open schools comes with risk.

“There’s never going to be 100% no risk. Unfortunately, a couple of kids every year got meningitis, maybe in school and getting very sick as a result, that doesn’t cause us to close schools indefinitely.”

Asked if he can be definite that students will return to school in September, Mr Varadkar added: “I can’t say that, there is the risk of the virus coming back again and spreading again.”

He said he would like to see children with special needs get extra attention ahead of schools re-opening, as he has been contacted by parents concerned about the impact the closure is having on their development.

“One particular area which we really would like to do something on, and that is the kids who’ve got special needs, children with autism or children with intellectual disability or behavioural problems.

“They’ve been on hold since March. Some of them may actually be regressing in terms of their development.

“I’m really worried about that group of children. I got a lot of letters from their parents as well.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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