Teachers seek clarity on wearing masks and visors in schools

Teachers seek clarity on wearing masks and visors in schools
The Asti is requesting a review of the use of face masks and visors in classrooms. File Picture.

Secondary teachers are urging the Minister for Education to review guidance on wearing PPE in schools.

The Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (Asti) has written to education minister Norma Foley to request she seek a review by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) of the recommendations issued in June, before schools reopen in late August.

In particular, they are looking for clarity on wearing masks and visors within schools. Under the current guidelines, the use of PPE is not required except in certain circumstances, such as performing intimate care or where a suspected case of Covid-19 is identified while the school is in operation.

“At the time the interim advice was issued, it was envisaged that a move to phase 4 of the reopening of the country would take place on July 20,” a spokesperson for the Asti said.

“It remains unclear whether phase 4 will have commenced prior to the reopening of schools. In that context, such a review would appear necessary."

They also noted that there have been significant changes in public policy when it comes to wearing masks on public transport and in other enclosed spaces since the recommendations were first released.

“The Health Protection Surveillance Centre is the body placed to provide guidance on this matter,” the spokesperson said.

“The Asti continues to emphasise the need to ensure the reopening of schools is implemented in a sustainable manner. Reducing the risk of transmission within schools must be prioritised."

The Government announced €375m financial package for extra staff, PPE and strict cleaning regimes in schools

Earlier this week, the Government announced a blueprint for reopening schools this autumn, including a €375m financial package.

These plans include more than  1,000 extra staff for post-primary schools to reduce class sizes, as well as the supply of PPE gear and strict cleaning regimes.

Also included in the plan is assigned seating on school buses, 120 additional guidance counsellors and psychologists, and 1m distancing between pupils in secondary schools.

On Thursday evening, the Department of Education said their PPE procurement process has identified "a number of suppliers that are capable of providing the full suite of core products" required for reopening schools.

"That procurement process has now concluded with supply agreements signed and the award notice published. Further guidance will issue to the sector, in the next week regarding the steps schools and education and training boards must take in early August. Advice will also issue to the higher education institutions on how they can engage in the process in late August to meet their needs," the department said in a statement.

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