November 30, 2021
Unclear guidance on mask wearing putting schools in impossible situation – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has criticised the Minister for Education’s approach to releasing guidance on mask wearing in primary schools.

The guidance was released at 6pm this evening, with no clarity on when the mask wearing requirement will begin in primary schools.

The Cork South Central TD said: 

“Yet again, the Minister for Education has published another 6pm guidance document, with no information on when mask wearing must be implemented in schools. 

“This has caused a great deal of concern among school staff and parents this evening, who are wondering what exactly they are being asked to police, and how to do that. 

“A few hours ago, mask wearing for under-9’s wasn’t going to be mandatory. Now it seems schools are being asked to enforce a mask wearing policy more hardline than the Dáil.

“Schools are being put in an impossible situation.

“The guidance is framed in the context of confrontation, with schools policing a hardline policy and assuming non-cooperation from parents.

“The reality is that parents want schools that are safe, and they want to ensure the safety and continued function of schools. To achieve this, we need the cooperation of parents and their buy-in.

“We have all known that there would need to be exceptions to mask wearing. We know that many children with special education needs, with sensory issues and who are hard of hearing; masks will create particular problems for them.

“We know that there will be a minority who for various reasons will not feel able to wear a mask. These children should not be penalised for this, and education should not be withheld from them. It may not always be possible to obtain a medical certificate in all of these circustances.

“Schools want to be able to apply common sense here, and that is what the focus should be on.

“The safety of our schools cannot hinge on mask wearing alone. We need a variety of measures, and it is now clear that contact tracing and HEPA air filtration devices are absolutely essential, and I urge the Minister for Education to stop prevaricating here and to implement these.

“The guidance that has been issued here puts schools in a very difficult situation, and raises many questions.

“I have written to the Minister this evening, urging her to come before the public and give answers to the many questions that parents and school staff will have.

“Succeeding in ensuring safe schools will not happen through confrontation, but by getting buy-in.”

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