INTO Committee to meet today to discuss plans to resume in-school special education 

INTO Committee to meet today to discuss plans to resume in-school special education 

THE INTO central executive committee (CEC) is to meet today where it will again discuss plans to resume in-school special education later this week. 

THE INTO central executive committee (CEC) is to meet today where it will again discuss plans to resume in-school special education later this week. 

On Friday night, the Department of Education announced plans for a phased return for children in special schools and a return to school for those in special classes in primary schools and children with significant additional needs in mainstream primary classes, beginning on January 21.

Yesterday, health officials took part in a webinar for school staff in advance of the move. 

Last night, following an emergency meeting, the CEC said that teachers’ grave safety concerns have not been adequately addressed by the public health webinar and by the Government and it  called on the Department of Education to reconsider its plan to resume in-school special education this week.

In a statement, the INTO said: “Teachers have serious concerns about the public health advice provided at today’s webinar in relation to the planned limited reopening of special education.

“Teachers are understandably and justifiably anxious about their own safety and that of their pupils whilst community infection levels remain very high.

“The public health webinar, organised by the Department of Education, following an INTO call for up-to-date information, failed to allay teachers’ fears.”

It added: “We will continue to engage with the department and public health authorities in an effort to work towards a safe, phased reopening. However, up-to-date, reliable information and supports are essential if this effort is to succeed.”

Mary Magner, Cork-based INTO President said while teachers across the country are keen to get back to the classroom, they are scared. Pic:Gareth Chaney/Collins
Mary Magner, Cork-based INTO President said while teachers across the country are keen to get back to the classroom, they are scared. Pic:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Cork-based INTO president Mary Magner said: “I know this is the last thing teachers want to be worrying about as they exhaustively strive to support pupils remotely.

“We have heard the concerns of teachers in recent days and, while teachers across the country are keen to get back to the classroom, they are scared. Teachers are committed to supporting their vulnerable pupils but the safety of staff is vital.”

Speaking to the Echo yesterday, prior to the INTO's statement, one Cork primary school principal admitted his disappointment with the nature of the late email that they received from the Minister last Friday evening, which expressed the government’s intention to reopen special schools and primary classes for children with additional needs from this Thursday.

“We were only told about this last Friday night in an email from the Minister at 7.30pm... It didn’t give us much time to get ready,” said Gaelscoil Pheig Sayers school principal, Adrian Breathnach. 

He said he was hopeful that plans for students to return this week would proceed and that when the students do return, he is hopeful they will quickly establish a routine. 

“They are the children who regressed the most during the lockdown so it is great that they will be able to return to the school and get a bit of normality back in their lives. They will meet their teachers and their other students which is so vital," Mr Breathnach said. 

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