Joyous scenes as schools return but Minister warns of congregating at gates 

Younger classes, from junior infants to second-class, returned today, as did final year Leaving Cert students
Joyous scenes as schools return but Minister warns of congregating at gates 

Maisy Martin 5 with her mother Karen Martin both from Clondalkin during the 1st day back at school following an easing of Covid Coronavirus restrictions at Gaelscoil Clondalkin on the Old Nangor Rd, Dublin Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Education Minister Norma Foley has reiterated public health appeals for parents of children returning to school this week to not congregate at the school gates.

Younger classes, from junior infants to second-class, returned to their schools today, as did final year Leaving Cert students. It means 320,000 children return to school today.

L-R: Twins, Lucy and Chloe Cummins, aged four, from Enfield Co Meath returned  Junior Infants at Primrose Hill National School in Celbridge, Co Kildare. Picture: Collins
L-R: Twins, Lucy and Chloe Cummins, aged four, from Enfield Co Meath returned  Junior Infants at Primrose Hill National School in Celbridge, Co Kildare. Picture: Collins

However, Ms Foley told RTÉ's Claire Byrne that parents should not meet each other as they are doing the school run.

"It is human nature to want to chat and meet and discuss, it's what we're about. But I will reiterate what the Deputy Chief Medical Officer said that people should not be congregating."

She said that antigen testing in schools has not yet been recommended in schools, but if public health advice changes, the Government will meet that challenge. 

She said that the opening of schools was a testament to the public health advice that the settings are safe and said teachers should exercise practical approaches to ventilation, opening windows before and after classes.

Ms Foley has also announced further supports to those schools catering for children and young people who are experiencing the highest levels of educational disadvantage. 

This includes a reduction in class sizes in DEIS urban schools, an extension of the School Completion Programme to include 14 urban primary and 14 post-primary schools, a 5% funding increase in the programme and a reduction of the enrolment threshold for the allocation of an additional deputy principal in DEIS post-primary schools.

Caitlin Collier, aged six,  from Clondalkin during her first day back at school at Gaelscoil Clondalkin on the Old Nangor Rd, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Caitlin Collier, aged six,  from Clondalkin during her first day back at school at Gaelscoil Clondalkin on the Old Nangor Rd, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Ms Foley said: "It is vital that DEIS schools catering for those students from lower socio-economic backgrounds receive continued support, particularly in light of the need to provide assistance to students who have missed out on learning opportunities as a result of Covid-19 school closures.

"While there has been a reduction in mainstream class size in recent years, there has not been a corresponding reduction for those Urban Band 1 DEIS schools.

"As an initial step in addressing this, I announced a one-point reduction for Senior Urban Band 1 schools from 24:1 to 23:1."

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