Back to school: Unions happy with plans but seek greater detail

Back to school: Unions happy with plans but seek greater detail
INTO general secretary John Boyle said the return to schools must be 'orderly'.

Teaching and trade unions have given a broad welcome to the Government's roadmap for the full re-opening of schools, although there have been calls for greater detail regarding some aspect of the plan, including on substitute teachers, and concerns over whether the resources available will be sufficient.

The Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) said the full re-opening would be "an unprecedented and difficult undertaking" and welcomed many aspects of the roadmap. However, it said it was "concerned that the investment and resources being made available to schools may be insufficient" and would be insisting on regular reviews to deal with any emerging deficiencies.

ASTI president Deirdre MacDonald said: "The re-opening of schools is one challenge. However, the measures that are being put in place must be sustained for as long as the threat of the pandemic remains."

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) was among those seeking clarity on substitute cover but its general secretary, John Boyle, welcomed the package, adding: "It is imperative that the return to primary and special schools is an orderly one and that teaching and learning in a safe, healthy and supportive school environment remains the top priority for all in primary and special schools until the virus is fully suppressed in Ireland."

In a statement on behalf of the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS), Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) and Joint Managerial Body (JMB), the general secretaries of those bodies also welcomed the roadmap and said re-opening was in the best interest of students.

Fórsa's head of education, Andy Pike, said he would raise concerns in a meeting with Minister for Special Education Josepha Madigan on Wednesday over the need for flexibility in special schools, as children there may become extremely anxious over necessary safety measures like face coverings.

Speaking ahead of the Government announcement,  general secretary of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, John MacGabhann, said a separation of 1m was “difficult but it’s workable”.

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