December 13, 2021
Department of Education leaves administrative burden of procuring HEPA to principals – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that this morning’s announcement allowing schools to purchase HEPA filtration devices via minor works grant funding, whilst welcomed, will add hugely to the workload of school leaders in the days leading up to Christmas.

He has written to the Minister, urging her to centrally procure and distribute these devices to schools that need them.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“It is welcome that the government have been forced to listen to parents, teachers, school leaders and the opposition, and are finally moving in the right direction on ventilation in schools.

“Why it has taken so long is anyone’s guess, but I’m glad they have finally woken up to this issue, in principle at least.

“However, the manner in which this funding has been presented is incredibly inefficient and the Department of Education has dropped a Christmas present of additional administration on the desks of school leaders who are already under severe pressure.

“Instead of government admitting that they were wrong to dismiss the importance of HEPA filtration, they have couched this announcement in terms of a minor works grant, which will add significantly to the workload of school leaders.

“In almost every school across the country, there are many projects that could benefit from funding under the minor works grant. It is unfair to have to put school leaders in a situation where they must choose between replacing broken sports equipment or fixing a leak, or purchasing HEPA filtration devices.

“School leaders will also have to jump through significant hoops if they decide to purchase HEPA filtration. The guidance produced by the Department on the type of filtration to buy is incredibly technical and unclear.

“This is the last thing school leaders needed to land on their desk before the Christmas break. The least the Department could have done is provide clear support for principals on what to buy and where to buy it.

“HEPA filtration would be much better centrally procured by the Department and distributed to schools who need them. This would likely be more cost efficient also. I cannot see why the Department have not done this.

“I welcome that the government now accepts HEPA filtration has a role to play, even at this late stage. But this is not the way to do it and I will be writing to the Minister for Education to ask her to reconsider this and to centrally procure.”

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