September 7, 2021
Minister must sort contact tracing issues in schools and let teachers teach – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has called on the Minister for Education to engage with the HSE and ensure that principals and school staff are properly supported in keeping schools open safely.

This comes following reports that principals are experiencing significant delays in accessing the Principals Covid helpline, leaving many having to do their own contact tracing.

The Cork South Central TD said:

“I have spoken to many principals and school staff, who are extremely frustrated with delays to get through on the HSE Principals helpline, leaving them having to do their own contact tracing and assessment.

“As a result, principals are left to make very difficult decisions on who has to self-isolate, often having to err on the safe side and keep all students in a class or year group at home, which is a massive disruption to families particularly where parents are working.

“Last year, there were school-specific contact tracing teams. Where are they now? I have written to the Minister and the HSE to clarify what is going on here.

“Clearly, the HSE teams working with schools are not being adequately resourced if it’s being left to principals to make these very difficult decisions on contact tracing, a strain particularly for teaching principals who are trying to teach a class at the same time. This is not good enough.

“The issue of inadequate air CO2 monitors and unclear guidance is also unacceptable, especially given that we have known for a long time that COVID is airborne, and Sinn Féin and others have been arguing for monitors since before Christmas.

“We also need to see the government finally act on leave for parents who may stay at home with their child if they have been directed to self-isolate. This is particularly important for low- and middle- income families and those in insecure work. It’s absurd that we’re this far into the pandemic and no action has been taken.

“The Minister needs to be proactive here, she needs to work with the HSE to sort these issues out and support principals and all school staff, who are trying their utmost to ensure schools can stay open safely but also productively, and that principals and schools can focus on what they are meant to be doing – teaching.”

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