January 4, 2022
To keep schools open, government must ensure essential mitigations are in place – Donnchadh O’Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that the Government must act now to ensure that schools can remain open by introducing key mitigations.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire had written to Minister Foley on 21st December urging her to put in place important mitigations to ensure schools could remain open. He warned that the government’s failure to act on these calls thus far is disappointing.

Speaking today, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“It is important that schools are able to remain open safely. Schools are the best places for children to learn. Their education has been disrupted so much already in recent years and everything possible must be done to ensure schools can remain open.

“It is deeply disappointing that the government has thus far failed to prioritise making schools as safe as possible so that they can remain open. The Government has been dragging their heels on this issue for months now and letting down children and their families by their ongoing failure to act. 

“Schools and the opposition have been raising the importance of HEPA air filtration systems, HSE led contact tracing and the substitution crisis for months now.  

“On the 21st December I wrote to the Education Minister, outlining that there was an opportunity over the Christmas break to put in place the mitigations that were necessary to make schools as safe as possible. I urged her not to let the Christmas break become yet another missed opportunity by this government, which fails to give children’s education the prioritisation necessary. 

“The Minister had an initial meeting on 22nd December with a stakeholder group, which I welcomed, but they are only now meeting again today.

“I cannot understand the lack of urgency from the government. Yet again Government has left it until the 11th hour. This is putting immense pressure on countless schools, and causing huge stress for parents, school staff, and on children.  

“Schools are due to reopen on Thursday, and Sinn Féin wants to see children in the classroom. 

“However, I am concerned that the Government will simply announce this and then walk away again without adding the additional mitigations needed.  

“That isn’t good enough, and the government cannot simply hope that this issue will go away. Many schools will find it harder than ever to find substitutes, and principals are at the end of their tether, undertaking contact tracing and sourcing filtration systems.  

“The Government must, at last, give education the priority it needs. It should be throwing the kitchen sink at this and doing everything possible to ensure schools do not only reopen this week but remain open. 

“That means HEPA air filtration systems in all classrooms, with adequate guidance for principals. That means the HSE being responsible for contact tracing, not principals. That means adequate investment in schools to ensure they have enough budget for heating and other vital resources. 

“We cannot take it for granted that just because schools open now that they stay open, we need to treat schools as an urgent priority to keep them open. The Government’s dithering and lax attitude only fails to protect children’s education. It’s time to make education the priority it deserves to be so schools can remain open.”

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