Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has called on the Minister for Education to address the space issues facing many schools across the state that are making it difficult to adhere to social distancing.
Speaking today, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said: “There is no doubt that the return to school was made all the more difficult because we have an education system that is underfunded, understaffed and overcrowded.
“Six weeks ago, we sent the Minister our policy document Keeping Schools Open, which highlighted the issues that needed to be addressed to ensure schools could reopen safely and sustainably. Space was a key issue we identified. I regret that little has been done since to address this.
“We propose an audit of schools, which should have been done long ago, to identify those schools struggling most with social distancing, and an additional fund of €100m to provide them with whatever additional space they require, whether through hire or modular units or extension.
“We also need the staff to achieve greater social distancing and the minister should restore all suppressed posts – schools shouldn’t be losing teachers this year as it could cause even more overcrowding.
“Overcrowding and a lack of space are the major issues that schools have faced since reopening. Many school leaders I have spoken with have told me that they have struggled to find adequate space to practice safe social distancing in classrooms.
“This, coupled with the fact we have some of the highest class sizes in Europe, makes it very difficult for schools to remain open safely, and it definitely is not sustainable.
“Today, I have called on the Minister to act urgently to address this issue.”