November 16, 2021
Minister for Education must show leadership and address Covid situation in schools – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has called on the government to show leadership and provide clarity to the school community on the changes to Covid protective measures in our schools.

The Cork South Central TD said:

“The school community is stuck in a vacuum of information.

“There has been some commentary by government on increased use of antigen testing in school settings, however school leaders, staff, parents and students have heard nothing from the Minister directly on how this will work or the role school staff will play, if any, in administering this.

“Up to now, schools were being prevented from informing families of positive Covid cases in their child’s classroom. This was wrong, and we and others had called for this decision to be reversed. 

“Apparently this is now possible, depending on consent, but the first any schools have heard of this is by media.

“It helps nobody to pretend that Covid isn’t in our schools. Parents deserve to know if there are cases within a classroom, and I am glad to hear that this is now dawning on the HSE and government.

“It is also very hard to understand why movement on contact tracing is so slow.  Nobody wants to go back to a situation where an asymptomatic child with a negative test is having to isolate for 10 days. That was completely disruptive. However, many people were taken by surprise by the decision to get rid of contact tracing completely.

“I have been calling for government to engage with NPHET to agree a form of contact-tracing that was backed by Public Health advice that would ensure healthy children with negative Covid tests did not miss out on school but also ensure schools had support from Public Health teams and the HSE, as well as all of the required information.

“We were told a number of weeks ago that NPHET were looking into this, but there has been no progress to date, and schools are still in the dark.

“The responsibility rests with the Minister for Education to ensure that the school community are kept informed on the Covid situation in our schools, and are assured by the protective measures that are in place.

“We have heard nothing from the Minister on this in weeks. The Minister for Education needs to show leadership, and provide clarity to school leaders, staff, students and parents on antigen testing, on contact tracing, on ventilation. 

“She needs to take seriously the calls of the school community for filtration devices in schools.

“It is high time that the Minister addressed the school community directly on what the next steps are to safeguard our schools.

“Sinn Féin will continue to work constructively with the government, but school communities cannot continue to be kept in the dark here. They need clarity, and that is seriously lacking at the moment.”

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