SCHOOLS should not be forced to remain open if level five restrictions are put in place, according to the president of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) and a Cork teacher.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has recommended heightened restrictions be implemented across Ireland amid an increase of Covid-19 cases across the country.
Ann Piggot is a member of the ASTI Cork branch and is current union president.
Ms Piggot said that schools should not be forced to remain open while the rest of society closes down for safety should level five restrictions be introduced.
Speaking to, Ms Piggot said:
“If they do recommend level five, the talk here is that schools will remain open.
“We have written to the Minister for Education to request that she meets with us immediately.
“Teachers are very worried that they will be left hanging out to dry in the middle of all of this,” she added.
“You can have six people at a wedding but 1,600 in a school and that’s apparently deemed acceptable.
“It’s absolutely not.
“We would like the recommendations reviewed to ensure schools are treated like the rest of society.
“Teachers are working in confined spaces with around 30 students in some cases, and students may not even know they have Covid.
“They could be asymptomatic and no one would know, allowing the virus to spread, and teachers are likely to be more vulnerable than students.
“I have been contacted by teachers with illnesses such as type 1 diabetes or cancers who probably shouldn’t be in the classroom at the moment in the first place and who are very, very worried.”
Ms Piggot said schools must close and return to online teaching methods, similar to those introduced when Covid first arrived in Ireland, should level five restrictions be introduced.
She said that reintroducing online teaching would mean more work for teachers, but would ensure their safety.
“It’s much harder work because teachers have to work longer hours preparing more material and preparing to teach in a totally different way.
“But if it means they’re safer, that would be the preferred outcome.
“When the levels were introduced originally, we were told schools would remain open in levels one to four with protective measures, and that for level five, recommendations would be based on the situation at the time.
“Now, there is an overall view that schools will remain open in level five and that shouldn’t be the case.” Ms Piggot said funding should be made available to ensure that both students and teachers have the necessary equipment and online access to facilitate learning at home.