Varadkar: €200 million plan will allow one million pupils return to school 

€200 million package to ensure all schools open
Varadkar: €200 million plan will allow one million pupils return to school 

The Government is to spend €200 million in the plan to open schools. Stock picture.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar says the €200 million plan to re-open schools is robust enough to allow one million pupils to return to school next month.

Mr Varadkar said while he cannot speak about latent trade union concerns, the memorandum going before the Cabinet tomorrow is “a very good plan.”

He did accept that there will be some clusters emerging here in the wake of schools re-opening. 

“This is a virus that's in the community. There can be outbreaks and clusters, anywhere, mostly happening in homes by the way, and in private settings and not in workplaces. But that doesn't mean that we can't proceed safely.

“We have a memo coming to cabinet, which sets out the plan to reopen our schools, and it's a very good plan.

“I can't speak for the unions, but I can say that the Government's plan is ready. It involves really big investment in changes to schools and school buildings. 

“It involves extra teachers, it involves cleaning regimes and it involves all sorts of practices and procedures that may occur if there is a case of coronavirus in schools,” he said.

He said it also includes special arrangements for teachers who have a chronic illness.

“There has been a lot of consultations with the unions. I think it's a very good plan. I can't speak for them. There's been a lot of consultation with the unions.

“But the plan will allow us to open schools for all children and all students all one million of them before the end of August,” he told RTÉ.

Mr Varadkar said that the teaching unions “absolutely have legitimate concerns” about returning safely to the classrooms, other sectors have managed to open before now.

Those concerns exist, also in the childcare sector, also in the healthcare sector in paediatrics also across the private sector and working together we have managed to keep paediatrics going, we've managed to get childcare reopened we've managed to reopen the vast majority of our economy.

“So I don't see why it shouldn't be possible for us to do the same for schools. Look across the entire European Union, where schools have been open partially or fully and there haven't been significant numbers of clusters,” Mr Varadkar said.

He said the unions have not sought to link the Covid emergency to their long-standing claims for pay equalisation, which he said can be examined in the context of the upcoming public service pay deal.

“In fairness to the teachers unions, I don't think they've tried to connect Covid-19 to a pay increase or a pay raise. I think that that's a separate issue and that'll have to be dealt with as part of the next set of public sector pay talks," he said.

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