Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that the implementation of the roadmap to reopen schools is going to be very difficult because of the tight time frame involved.
He has also said that there are glaring omissions in the government’s roadmap; describing it as a wasted opportunity to take real action to reduce class sizes and he has said that there are major issues in a number of key areas.
He said that:
“Schools have to re-open in September. That is critical for parents, teachers and children alike.
“Unfortunately, the government has made a mess of this from the very start. Sinn Féin have been pushing for a roadmap for the reopening of schools for months, but that never materialised until now – just weeks before schools are due to reopen.
“Now that we have a plan, three or four weeks is a ridiculous timeframe to turn some of this around and I am shocked at the lack of action in some areas.
“One in five primary school children are in a class of over thirty. We have the biggest primary school class sizes in Europe and the government seems to think it is a good idea to keep them that way.
“If there was ever a time to reduce class sizes, surely this is it. Sinn Féin will be using our private members time tomorrow to call on the government to immediately and drastically reduce class sizes, and I will be raising this directly with the Minister.
“We are also very worried that the government have massively underestimated the number of substitute teachers required for panels at primary school level.
“Last year there were more than 500 teachers a day who were not being replaced by a substitute teacher, but the government are only providing 200 teachers for panels in this plan. This wouldn’t even meet the need for last year; never mind the challenges of Covid-19.
“Implementing this has been made extremely difficult by the government’s self-imposed timeline. Schools will find it very difficult to find additional space and recruit the staff they need in that timeframe.
“There is also no increased allocation for special education – at a time of enormously increased need. These are the children who have lost out the most in recent months.
“I will be writing to the Minister tonight to outline my concerns, which I strongly believe she needs to take on board and to address right away. Schools have to re-open in September. We all need to work towards that goal.”