Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that a return to schools is crucially important, but has to happen in a planned and safe way.
Speaking tonight, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“We all want to see children back in the classroom – it is the best place for them to learn. I say that as a parent and a public representative.
“I hope that that can happen at the earliest possible date, but it must be in a way that is safe and sustainable.
“I note the comments of the Deputy CMO tonight. Clearly, public health advice is crucial before any return to school classrooms can be considered.
“It is also vitally important that lessons are learned from January and the government-made fiasco of the reopening of special education in the first instance.
“On that occasion, there was no preparation, while dates were thrown out without having agreement or a clear plan.
“That led to false dawns and expectations being dashed with people let down when these proposals collapsed. Government cannot continue to let people down, and put dates out if they are not going to be met.
“Government communication of this has been confused and haphazard to say the least. As recently as Tuesday night, the Taoiseach on national television said that the talk of March 1st was only a rumour.
“It reappeared from leaks from a parliamentary party meeting last night. This was before any public health advice was issued.
“The government keeps talking about a plan, but they have issued no such plan, instead opting for commentary and leaks. Parents, children and staff all deserve better communication and more honesty.
“I am also disappointed to hear no mentioned of children with special educational needs in the mainstream for the return
“It appears tonight as though they have been let down and forgotten again, so I hope the Minister will offer them some clarification.
“There is a great deal more needed in terms of ensuring schools are made as safe as possible, including reversing the 40 per cent cut to PPE grants, serial testing, a specific approach to schools with high number of cases and, crucially, flexibility for high-risk workers
“In any reopening, we need to see a common sense approach to attendance. Many parents will be anxious and have some reservations around sending their children back, and will want to do so in their own time.
“That is not unreasonable, and I would urge the Department and Túsla to recognise that and to take a sensible approach to parents who care about education but have very legitimate concerns about their health and that of their children.”