Unions representing teachers have issued a clear statement to government officials that they are not comfortable returning to school unless they are provided with greater assurances that they will be safe at a time when Covid-19 cases are rapidly increasing.
Schools had been due to re-open this week after the Christmas break but a decision was taken to keep both primary and secondary schools closed until next Monday 11th. Teachers unions however remain unconvinced that is safe to return next week and the government must now decide by today if they will allow schools to re-open this Monday. A cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 were due to meet last night to discuss the issue with a decision promised by today (Wednesday).
An ASTI spokesperson stated that they needed ‘greater assurances to teachers, students and school staff that schools will be safe places to work next week’.
“Minister for Education Norma Foley must provide greater assurance to teachers, students, parents and other school staff that schools will be safe places next week, in the context of rapidly rising Covid-19 cases and the emergence of a new variant of the virus in Ireland which has enhanced transmissibility.
“Following a meeting with the Minister today, the ASTI remains concerned that there is much uncertainty which has not been allayed within school communities as to whether existing measures and arrangements in schools are sufficiently safe in light of recent developments.
“The ASTI will continue to engage with education stakeholders, Department of Education representatives and NPHET representatives regarding arrangements for the re-opening of schools,” stated the spokesperson for ASTI.
Meanwhile local INTO representative Catherine Flanagan said she has been getting a record number of correspondences from teachers concerned about Covid-19.
“There is a very high incidence rate along Border counties such as Louth, Cavan and Monaghan,” she said.
“The incidence rate in the community was significantly lower in August and September when schools re-opened.
“I’m hearing lots of individual stories for example teachers who are pregnant and whose husbands are also teachers and they fear they might not be able to attend the birth.”
Catherine added: “I’m hearing stories of people who are high risk. There should be more defined levels of leave to work from home and teach children who are also high risk.
“Personally, I feel schools should remain closed until there is a levelling off of Covid-19 in the community and it seems to be back under control.
“Teachers prefer to work in school rather than from home but it can’t be contemplated working at school when the rate is so high,” she concluded.