November 5, 2021
School community continue to be left in the dark on contact tracing – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has expressed his concern at the delays in advancing contact tracing in schools. 

This follows comments by both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste last week, committing to a review by NPHET of the current public health guidance in school settings.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“School leaders are feeling incredibly isolated. They are being left in the dark by the HSE, and they are feeling completely abandoned by the Department of Education.

“It is not helpful for anyone to pretend that there is no Covid in schools. Two weeks ago in the Dáil, I raised the concerns of school leaders with the Minister for Health.

“I urged him and Minister Foley to engage with NPHET to explore how they could ensure schools resumed heightened access to public health teams, without requiring the unnecessary exclusion of healthy children as was the case before.

“It was welcomed then, when last week both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste said that NPHET were reviewing the public health advice for schools. This gave school leaders hope that they would finally receive the supports they required.

“A week has now passed, and we have heard nothing on this since. 

“Once again, the school community has been left in the dark, and let down by the promises of this government. 

“We do not know what contact tracing there will be, what supports will be available and what guidance will accompany this.

“We clearly do not want to go back to a situation where an asymptomatic child with a negative test is having to isolate. That was completely disruptive.

“However, school leaders need greater public health support than they’re currently receiving. We need some element of contact tracing in our schools. 

“School leaders are also continuing to be put in an impossible position, because the Minister has refused to recognise the reality on the ground, and to intervene to address the huge substitution issues across the state. 

“It is shocking to me that she still has not reversed the decision to remove banked special educational teaching hours.

“The school community needs leadership from their Minister. Minister Foley needs to engage urgently with NPHET, to secure the necessary public health supports for school leaders, and to ensure that the whole school community feels confident going to school.”

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