Teachers will return to school 'once safe to do so' - TUI president

The president of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) Seamus Lahart has said that teachers want to return to school and will return when it is safe to do so.
Teachers will return to school 'once safe to do so' - TUI president

Teachers will continue to work with the department over the summer to discuss the possibilities of a return to school in September, the TUI has said. File image
Teachers will continue to work with the department over the summer to discuss the possibilities of a return to school in September, the TUI has said. File image

The president of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) Seamus Lahart has said that teachers want to return to school and will return when it is safe to do so.

His union’s members want to engage with their students, but only when it is safe, he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Sarah McInerney show.

The TUI has met with the Department of Education 21 times since schools were closed, he said and will continue to work with the department over the summer to discuss the possibilities of a return to school in September.

However, Mr Lahart pointed out that schools are a workplace and he could not see how physical distancing guidelines could be ignored in a classroom setting if they were still in operation elsewhere.

We want to return to work – professionally, responsibly and safely. We will listen and take advice from the health authorities.

Mr Lahart said that if the health authorities say it is safe to return to a classroom with 30 pupils, then they will do so.

Since schools closed, teachers had continued to deliver classes remotely, they had assisted in organising an alternative Junior Cert and in assessing the Leaving Cert, he said, adding: “We have done our best for students.” If there is a ‘bespoke solution’ as had been mentioned by the Minister last week, that would enable teachers and pupils to return safely to school then he would like to hear about it, he said.

When asked if the government were to decide it was more important for children to return to school than to observe physical distancing, would teachers return to work, Mr Lahart said he could not see how physical distancing guidelines could be ignored in the classroom, but that the union would see what the best international advice was and the experience in other countries where schools had reopened.

We are available to discuss the safest way to get back to school. We want to do it and will do it when it is safe to do so.

Earlier on the same programme Eamonn Donnelly, head of the health and welfare division of the Forsa trade union warned about the lack of staff available to work at the planned special education summer camps.

There simply were not enough staff available to take on this block of work, he said as the HSE begins to “reboot” the health service.

This was not a case of saying that it could not be done, but details would need to be ironed out, he said. “They are going to need to look at capacity. That realisation needs to happen quickly.” Mr Donnelly said that the mechanism was there to carry out short term recruitment. An immediate discussion needed to be held within the next day or two if the summer camps were to commence in July as announced.

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