Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has called on the Minister for Education to reassure parents, students and school staff on whether schools will reopen in January as planned.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire was speaking following comments from Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan this morning on implications for education, and the circulation of an email to schools advising them to prepare for remote learning.
Speaking in the last days before the schools finish up for Christmas, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“I want to take this opportunity to thank all the principals, teachers, SNAs, secretaries, caretakers and all school staff for their hard work this term to ensure schools stayed open safely, and indeed the students too for carrying on with their studies in what have been an extraordinarily difficult few months.
“I hope that all members of the school community have a peaceful and relaxing Christmas break.
“Nothing is more beneficial for students than in-school learning. It is better, not just for the educational aspects, but for the socialisation too.
“Families want schools to remain open. Tony Holohan today on Morning Ireland recognised the huge efforts that the people of Ireland made during the second wave, which ensured that education could be maintained and students could continue to go to school.
“But with the recent rise in Covid-19, families have been in contact with me concerned that schools might not reopen in January. This would be extremely detrimental to students and their learning.
“Schools have received an email today outlining the need to prepare for remote learning. I also note that for the first time in a long time, the CMO raised a question regarding restrictions on education.
“We all know that, despite the enormous efforts of everyone involved, remote learning proved very challenging and that children lost out in the early months of the pandemic. That much is clear.
“Students and their families are now worried during the Christmas break that they might have to return to remote learning. The Minister for Education must now make a clear statement, before the Christmas break, to clarify whether schools will reopen as planned in January.
“Keeping schools open requires reassuring all those involved that schools are safe places to be. We need Minister Foley to reassure families and staff of what is being done to make schools safer, and to set out what is the threshold at which the infection would have to be at for schools to have to close.
“All decisions around public health in the coming weeks should be centred around ensuring that certain priorities are met. Ensuring that our hospitals are not overwhelmed is absolutely essential. But we need to be mindful of the imprtance of education too – it is key to our children’s futures and their socialisation.
“Any public health decisions over the coming weeks must aim to preserve in-school learning where possible. Sinn Féin would like to see a safe, sustainable reopening of schools in January as planned.”