Minister to meet with unions and health officials ahead of schools reopening

Minister for Education Norma Foley will hold the meeting ahead of the planned reopening of schools on Thursday
Minister to meet with unions and health officials ahead of schools reopening

The Minister for Education will meet with teachers’ unions and public health officials before schools reopen in light of surging Covid-19 infections.

Norma Foley will hold the meeting next Tuesday, ahead of the planned reopening of schools on Thursday, January 6th.

In a statement, the Minister said the Department of Education has continued to engage with public health officials over the Christmas period.

“I recognise the huge importance of school for children and young people,” she said on social media.

“All infection prevention and control measures in place in schools are kept under constant review, and we have continued to engage with public health officials over the Christmas period.

“As previously agreed, I will be attending a meeting with public health next Tuesday afternoon with unions, management bodies and department officials in advance of school reopening.”

Ahead of the planned reopening, teachers’ unions are seeking “quicker response times and interventions” if multiple cases arise in schools, according to The Irish Times.

John Boyle, general secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), said it was seeking assurance the Government would take infections levels within primary schools “seriously” moving forwards.

“As Covid-19 is rampant in communities, we want an assurance that the Government will do more to ensure that infection levels within primary schools are being closely monitored and taken seriously moving forward and that school principals can rely on public health support when they most need it,” he said.

INTO will “simply not accept any less public health protection for our members, who are close contacts of confirmed cases and who are among the group of workers caring for the largest cohort of unvaccinated individuals,” he said.

Mr Boyle said the union would also be seeking clarity on the progress of the children’s vaccination programme at the forthcoming meeting.

Martin Marjoram, president of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI), said the “longstanding teacher supply crisis arising from pay inequality continues to cause enormous challenges in the context of the pandemic”.

He said the TUI was hoping to receive the latest public health advice regarding schools from the department at the meeting on Tuesday.

Earlier on Friday, in an interview on RTÉ’s News at One, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said schools would reopen as planned, adding they were a controlled environment.

“All of the information that I’ve been given, all of the advice I have, says that whilst of course you can get infection within the schools, they are substantially safer for example than children being outside of schools,” the Minister said.

He said he was not aware of any European country that is considering closing schools at present.

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