Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that the government need to stop spinning and throwing out dates for the reopening of schools without an agreed plan to do so being in place.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“Despite everyone’s best efforts, we all know that home schooling isn’t the same. Children are losing out and parents trying to balance working from home and home-schooling are under severe pressure.
“We all want children to get back to the classroom. It needs to happen in a way that is safe, sustainable and agreed. It certainly needs to be backed by public health advice
“Unfortunately, today all we are really getting is a date – not a plan.
“The government have gone quickly from saying that schools would reopen on 1st February, then suddenly St. Patrick’s Day, then Easter and now we are looking at 1st March.
“I think parents and school staff can be forgiven for being a little sceptical given how regularly these dates have changed, and I think we will need to see the detail of this before parents put much faith in this.
“I am concerned that the government is making the same mistakes again. Twice their plans for special education failed because they did not secure agreement. I had hoped that the most recent special education plans indicated that they had learned from that.
“But yet again, the government is throwing dates out without agreeing a clear plan with stakeholders.
“I want schools back. I want them back safely and sustainably. But to me this is distraction from their failure to meet their deadline on the Leaving Cert.
“For me, the public health advice and the criteria we use for reopening is key.
“What I would like to see most urgently is that those children with special educational needs – who still don’t have a confirmed return date – are prioritised.
“The Minister for Education also needs to put in place the key safety measures that will be required.
“I have listened to and engaged with stakeholders from across the school community, and they are calling for the immediate reversal of the 40% cut in PPE, serial testing for all school staff, significant improvements in school tracing, remote working options for high-risk staff and a system for supporting schools where large numbers of staff are absent due to Covid-19.”