Micheál Martin: Covid safety concerns in schools will be 'ironed out'

Micheál Martin: Covid safety concerns in schools will be 'ironed out'

Taoiseach Micheál Martin sought to play down the threat of industrial action by teachers.

The Taoiseach says safety issues facing schools "will be ironed out" as he played down the threat of industrial action by teachers.

Micheál Martin was speaking after the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) this week voted in favour of industrial action over school safety concerns during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Teachers are particularly concerned about turnaround times for testing, remote working options and a clearer definition of what a close contact is.

Mr Martin said that health teams would work at a national and local level to ease the concerns.

"First of all, I would say that the reopening of schools has worked well.

"There's been tremendous contribution by school leadership, by teachers, as well as SNAs and school secretaries in the entire school community. 

The evidence from the public health authorities is that schools are safe places to be in and transmission is low within schools compared to the situation outside the schools that are out in the community.

"The Department of Education, the Minister for Education has been in ongoing regular contact with the partners in education and with the unions, in particular, in relation to progressing issues of concern that they have. 

"Critical to that was a more regular engagement with the public health authorities which has happened and will continue to happen on an ongoing and basis. "

Mr Martin added that school teams have been established to create a "stronger integration" and connection between public health and education.

"It's very, very important that we create good, safe environments for children and teachers because school is very important for the children of the nation," he said.

"It's a national priority of ours, to make sure that we can continue to enable children to learn in the school environment through this pandemic because that's the best way of ensuring their mental wellbeing, their physical wellbeing, but above all their education and personal development needs as well."

Sanitising products recall

Separately, the general secretary of the Teachers Union of Ireland Michael Gillespie said that his members are angry about why checks were not carried out previously on sanitising products to be used in schools following a further recall of products.

Mr Gillespie said that his members want to keep schools open, but they can't do that if the supports aren't there.

“They have to be resourced - there are going to be challenges, schools have to reopen today to deal with all this. Our members are angry.”

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