Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has said the Government position that schools will reopen as normal on the 11th January is unrealistic, and in his view, it was very unlikely.
The Cork South-Central TD said that unless the government can demonstrate how schools can open safely on Monday, then they should remain closed.
Speaking following a meeting with Minister for Education Norma Foley, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“It is impossible to understand why the Government is allowing the uncertainty around schools reopening to continue, and to escalate when we all know they are highly unlikely to reopen as normal on Monday 11th January.
“No one wants to see schools closed, we all know that impact on many children in the spring by the extended remote learning. We cannot have an extended closure such as we had in the spring.
“However, we have to recognise the reality on the ground, and it is very difficult to imagine how schools can reopen safely and sustainably when the virus is as widespread as it is. The collapse in testing and tracing is a major issue here.
“If the Minister for Education has advice to the contrary, she needs to outline that, and justify that.
“If not, the Minister needs to come out and level with the public.
“Schools and parents need time to prepare for next week, if schools are closed or if remote learning is going to take place.
“Delaying a decision on this only adds to the problem. Likewise is the failure of the Department to develop contingency plans.
“If that does take place, we need immediate action from the Minister to ensure our schools are made safe enough for reopening as soon as possible, and that this be kept under review constantly.
“Schools should be a priority, we do want children in schools as soon as it is safe, because we recognise how important they are.
“Special supports for children with education needs, and the facilitation of free school meals must be made a priority if schools are to remain closed.”