Government 'priority' is to keep schools open

Government 'priority' is to keep schools open

The INTO said it received no clarification on what protective measures apply in primary and special schools under the higher levels.

Keeping schools open remains the priority for the Government as unions seek further information on how students and teachers will remain safe under higher level restrictions.

On Monday, the unions representing teachers raised serious concerns over how schools will operate under higher restrictions following the recommendation of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to move to level five.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) wrote to Education Minister Norma Foley following that recommendation.

Despite consultations, the INTO said it received no clarification on what protective measures apply in primary and special schools under the higher levels, according to its general secretary, John Boyle.

“In our view, it is inconceivable that the same protections — hand sanitising, hand washing, enhanced cleaning, ventilation, pods and bubbles — would be deemed to be sufficient at all [levels one to four]," he said.

"Urgent clarity is also needed around the additional measures of protection in schools at level four, compared to what is currently in place at level three. Crucially we now also need clarity on the plans for primary and special schools in areas where level five would apply."

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and the Teachers' Union of Ireland also raised concerns and sought clarity.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Department of Education said that keeping schools open remains a priority for Government.

"Public health specialists in the HSE have been closely monitoring the progression and transmission of the disease since schools reopened at the beginning of last month and this will be informing the decisions and recommendations of NPHET during this period."

Under levels three and four of the plan, schools remain open. "There is a huge emphasis in the measures applied across society to ensuring that children can continue to attend school." 

Level five of the Living with Covid-19 plan sees recommendations for schools based on information available at the time, said the spokesman.

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