May 5, 2021
High Risk Families continue to be forgotten – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has expressed his concern that the Minister for Education has continued to ignore high risk families and their calls to be facilitated with remote learning.

This comes following reports that some 4,500 children did not return to school when they reopened following Covid closures last year.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“The figures released today are stark. I have no doubt that contained within these numbers are many high risk families, who have been stuck in a limbo since the pandemic began, with little to no support from the Minister for Education.

“Many families are simply not in a position to send their kids back to school, because a member of their family has a medical vulnerability and the risks are just too high, because even though there are improvements, the numbers are still high. 

“These children are losing out on their education as a result, which is completely unacceptable.

“I have repeatedly asked the Minister to step in and ensure remote learning is facilitated for these students. 

“In response, the Minister has repeatedly stated that she would not do so, as school is the best place for students to learn.

“This misses the point entirely. I am sure these families would love to be sending their children back into the classroom and to their friends, but they simply can’t take the risk at this point.

“There does need to be a common sense approach here, and a sensitive attitude taken by Department, schools and by Túsla.

“The overwhelming majority of these parents want their children to be in schools, they know it is the best place to learn provided it is safe. 

“However from their point of view, it is necessity for these families to keep their family unit safe and well.

“It is unfair that a child would be forced to go to school, worried that they may be bringing home illness to their high risk parent. 

“Indeed, figures from the Irish Secondary Level Students’ Union survey before Christmas showed that this is one of the top issues that students themselves are worried about.

“Students are dealing with enough stress and anxiety at the moment without this additional worry. Any child who has a high risk family member at home should be allowed to stay at home, and should be facilitated with remote learning.

“The Government cannot continue to ignore the plight of vulnerable families.”

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