Cork school principals have called for the Government to make a firm decision on the reopening of schools as preparations for a potential learning from home outcome need to be made.
The Government’s Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 met to discuss the matter yesterday afternoon with a decision on whether to reopen schools expected to be made following a Cabinet meeting today.
Principal of Owenabue Educate Together National School, Trina Golden, said that a lot of students do not have access to the necessary devices required for online learning from home.
“A lot of kids don’t have access to devices so there’s a lot more planning that has to go into that to make sure they have something for Monday so that they’re not left behind with nothing prepared for them.
“There are considerations that Nphet might not be aware of so it might not be playing into their timeline but the Department of Education needs to be aware of it and needs to make a decision as soon as possible,” she said.
Kinsale Community School principal Fergal McCarthy, said that schools now have the capacity to deliver teaching online, something which they did not have ahead of the first lockdown in March, but that students should be provided with their own devices.
He said that student learning from the home is workable when devices do not have to be shared but that it becomes “a different kettle of fish” when devices are required by parents who have been told to work from home.
Mr McCarthy suggested that each student who is required to learn from home should be given a device of their own, under a tax-initiative similar to that of the cycle-to-work scheme, whereby parents can buy an electronic device to give their child access to online education.
Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland president Ann Piggott, said that should it be necessary for schools to close, online learning “will be the way forward while alleviation is needed on surging numbers”.
“The union has been calling for the Department of Education to provide IT equipment for staff and students for this eventuality,” she said.
Meanwhile, Labour’s education spokesman Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has called on the Government and NPHET to find a path to facilitate in-class tuition for Leaving Cert students who wish to avail of such provision, with the class of 2021 having already missed out on 11 weeks of classroom tuition in 2020.