Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has said parents, children and school staff are dismayed at the further confusion created by Minister McHugh’s announcement today.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said;
“Three months ago today, school buildings across the State shut. In that time, Irish children and their families have been placed under incredible strain despite the enormous efforts of parents and teachers. There can be no question that this has had negative impacts on children’s education, socialisation and mental health.
“In all that time, schools have received no guidance on how to plan for next year. Every child, parent and teacher expected the Minister would today give them a roadmap for a return to education.
“What we got from the Department of delay and defer today is even more confusion. On the one hand telling us how many children would return to school with one metre or two metre, and on the other hand telling us that social distancing is not a runner in schools. Parents and schools are at a complete loss.
“The idea of some children returning only one day a week is absolutely unacceptable. Parents, especially parents returning to work, are upset and cannot believe this is being considered.
“Parents are furious at this drip-feeding of information.
“Preparation for a return to school has become a fiasco and the vacuum created by the Department of Education over the last three months is due to their failure to communicate and plan.
“Regarding summer provision, it is positive that there is a desire to include as many children as possible.
“However, our concern is that the Department seems to have done no capacity planning at all.
“I am concerned the preparation hasn’t been done – that schools, families and teachers won’t have been in a position to organise themselves.
“Ultimately, many families will end up disappointed as they will not be able to find themselves a programme or a place for their child.
“The Government may try to shift the blame onto the schools, but the reality is that it will be on their failure to plan for this scheme.
“If that is the case, building up the hopes of these families is a deeply unfair thing to do. Of course it is a vitally important scheme and we hope as many people as possible can avail of it but our fear is that the Department has not put in the preparation.
“The Department is talking about it being a further two weeks before we get a roadmap. We need clarity and reassurance the Government will do all they can to ensure the safety of children and staff.
“Children with special educational needs and educational disadvantage are among those who suffered the most during pandemic. They have faced isolation, a lack of socialisation, and have fallen back educationally.
“Providing some kind of social activity for these children and their families is vitally important.”