THE Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) has called for “an immediate review” of the Covid-19 response plans for primary and special schools to address what the union has described as “soaring transmission levels” of the virus in schools.
It follows a snapshot survey carried out by the union to assess the level of Covid-19 infection in schools across the country.
The data submitted to the survey related to the period from November 1 to November 16.
School principals across the country were asked to assess the level of Covid-19 infection of which they were aware in their school community.
Of the 877 schools that responded, a wide-ranging positivity rate from 0.1% (73 pupils) in Kerry to 4.1% in Waterford (175 pupils) was reported. In Cork, the rate was 1.2%.
Of a total of 231,912 pupils in the responding schools, 3,726 pupils were reported as testing positive for Covid-19 (based on the sample of 877 schools that responded).
Some 3.62% of staff (605 of 16,694) were reported as testing positive for Covid-19 during this period.
Responding to the findings of the survey, INTO general secretary John Boyle said that “soaring transmission levels” were “an indictment of the premature removal of testing and contact tracing from our primary schools, and of the frustrating failure to move quickly to deploy antigen testing”.
He said the Government must do everything in its power to minimise the risk of exposure in every primary school classroom.
“The fast-tracking of the booster vaccine programme and the provision of vaccines for children aged under 12 will be essential to support the primary education system in the coming months,” he said.
The survey also found that, during the period in question, 11,778 substitutable days were reported, of which 31.36% (3,693 days) were not covered.
“It is imperative that the recent commitment by the Minister for Education to engage with the education partners to find solutions to address the substitution crisis is acted upon swiftly,” he continued.
In recent days, the Department of Education announced arrangements for a system of antigen testing of asymptomatic close contacts in primary schools put in place by the HSE.
It said the on-the-ground experience of public health doctors had been that schools were relatively low-risk environments and had not been a driver of transmission in children.