Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has welcomed the recent announcement of a phased reopening of schools, but has called on the Minister to urgently provide further guidance to the school community on how the intricacies of this return will work.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“It is welcome that we now have a timeline for the reopening of schools. However, the devil is in the detail, and there are many areas where we are still lacking that important detail and clear guidance from the Minister.
“I have been contacted by many sixth year students who are very concerned that mock exams have been scheduled to start in their school from their first day back next Monday.
“Because there has been no clear guidance from the Minister, they are concerned these exams which they have had little notice of will form the basis for their calculated grade this year.
“The Minister cannot allow mocks to be used as a proxy for the Leaving Cert itself, particularly for students who have made the choice not to sit the written exams in June.
“It is unfair to expect students to have to do lengthy exams before they even have their feet under the table next Monday morning. This is not the fault of the schools, as they have had no clear guidance from the Minister to the contrary.
“The Minister needs to provide clear guidance to schools, to ensure that these mocks which are foisted onto students at the last minute are not included in the calculated grading process.
“Sixth year students have been out of the school setting for over two months now. They need time to acclimatise, and the Department needs to rule out metrics like that.
“This is just one of many areas where there has not been sufficient guidance provided to schools, leaving schools under severe pressure to prepare for the reopening.
“There has been no updated guidance provided on how school transport will run safely, or on how ventilation measures will work this time around.
“There has also been no mention of any supports or advice for high risk staff, who have been left in the lurch on whether they will be facilitated with remote working options, or what the Minister has done to make sure they are not at risk in the school environment.
“Sinn Féin has welcomed the announcement of a phased reopening. We all know that in-school learning is unmatched, but the schools are set to reopen in just five days’ time, and they are still lacking clear guidance in many areas.
“The Minister must step up now, and urgently provide clarity to the school community on how the intricacies of this return to school will work.”