TALKS between the Department of Education, Fórsa, and Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) on plans to reopen schools are set to resume this morning.
The department had initially announced a phased return to in-school primary education for children with special educational needs starting today.
However, on Tuesday night, the unions called on the Government to postpone the return to schools for children with special educational needs until further discussions on improved safety measures could take place.
The department subsequently said that a phased return for children with special educational needs to in-school learning today, would “regrettably not be possible owing to a lack of co-operation by key staff unions in the primary sector.”
Speaking to The Echo, INTO president Mary Magner reiterated her union’s desire to continue engaging with all the relevant stakeholders to ensure primary schools can open in a safe manner in the near future.
The Cork native said: “Every teacher would love to be at the coalface of the classroom.
“However, the issue is there are genuine fears and huge anxiety levels out there with regards to the huge community transmissions that are still unfortunately very high. If they drop, teachers and SNAs would feel a lot more comfortable going back into the classroom.
“We are still there to push forward on this. We want to see a solution. We are willing to engage in more conversations with all the various stakeholders.”
Ms Magner said a public health webinar, organised by the Department of Health, which was attended by thousands of teachers, SNAs, and officials did not inspire the required levels of confidence teachers and SNAs needed to feel safe going back into school. “Teachers and SNAs want reassurances that it is safe to teach in a school environment. There is nobody more diligent and caring of special education needs than teachers themselves.”
Ms Magner is hopeful teachers and SNAs can be accommodated with regards to receiving the vaccine at an earlier point than currently scheduled. “We appreciate there are issues with the rollout of the vaccine, but we are down at point 11 for the vaccine. If we are to be deemed to be essential workers, we need to be moved up the list to point six,” she added.