OVERCROWDED classrooms and teacher shortages are just two of the issues the government must tackle if schools are to remain open, according to a Cork TD.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has said there are still issues to be resolved to ensure that schools can remain open in the weeks and months ahead.
Deputy Ó Laoghaire will submit a document detailing these issues to Minister Norma Foley before meeting her this week, and will publish this document subsequently.
The Cork South Central TD outlined what he believes are the key elements to ensuring that schools can remain open. “Schools are reopening thanks to the huge efforts of principals, teachers and school staff along with parents and transport providers,” he said.
“Now we need to focus on keeping schools open.
“We will face greater challenges in the weeks and months ahead because we have some of the largest class sizes in Europe and the government seems determined to keep them that way,” he added.
Deputy O’Laoghaire said rapid Covid-19 testing must be introduced for schools to ensure any cases are dealt with swiftly and decisively, and risk is minimised. A lax attitude cannot be accepted, he added.
He also called for support for parents that have to keep symptomatic children home.
“Our overcrowded education system is a huge obstacle to safety and social distancing,” added the Cork TD.
“We need to reduce class sizes.
“One in five primary school children are in a class of over 30, and some in classes of 35, and even over 40,” he added.
“We need to begin the process of reducing class sizes immediately, focusing first of all on eliminating the classes of over 30.
“We also need to tackle the shortage of teachers and substitutes, and maximise the number of teachers available.
“That must be done, by expanding the hours of teachers who do not have enough hours, expanding the numbers of substitute panels, and expediting deployment of second year PME and fourth year student teachers.”