Micheál Martin: Reopening of schools for students with special needs a 'failure all round'

Micheál Martin: Reopening of schools for students with special needs a 'failure all round'

Schools will not reopen for all students before St Patrick's Day, the Taoiseach has said.

The reopening of schools for students with special educational needs has been a "failure all round", the Taoiseach has admitted.

The Government abandoned plans last week to resume classes on Thursday for primary school pupils with special needs after unions said they had not received sufficient reassurances from the Department of Education that a return to schools was safe.

Micheál Martin said there was still a "shared determination" between all concerned that schools needed to resume classes for this cohort of students, but he would not confirm a specific date.

He said it may be "in the coming weeks," but that "if it comes sooner, fine".

Mr Martin told RTÉ Radio 1: "It's our priority." 

He also said schools will not reopen for all students before St Patrick's Day. 

The Fianna Fáil leader said the Government would be taking "phased" approach to the return to the classroom for thousands of students, rather than a "big bang" approach.

Schools have been closed since the Christmas holidays due to the surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

"I'm passionate about education but with one million people involved in our education I think we are going to have to look at it differently now in terms of how we reopen schools, not the one big bang approach because of the transmissibility and that, I think we have to get the numbers down," he said. 

He said the daily case numbers would have to be "somewhere similar" to where they were in October or November before classes could resume for all students.

But he would not give specific numbers because he said schools were essential.

"The full million won't be back (before St Patrick's day). Maybe we can phase things and look at things differently. We need to think about this."

He added: "We need to be innovative and obviously parallel with the way the virus is changing we need to adapt our approaches in terms of the mass movement of young people and students."

Asked about the Leaving Cert, Mr Martin said there was a range of options that have to be examined when it came to the Leaving Cert and that a decision on the examinations would be made within a short timeframe.

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