Teachers report ‘incredibly difficult first day back’ as schools reopen

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation has reiterated a call for the Government to reinstate contact tracing
Teachers report ‘incredibly difficult first day back’ as schools reopen

Press Association

Teachers have reported an “incredibly difficult first day back” after schools reopened on Thursday following the Christmas break.

Children around the country returned to classrooms after public health officials told school managers and unions it was safe, despite record Covid-19 case numbers.

On Thursday evening, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) said the feedback from their members was that “today was an incredibly difficult first day back”.

We again call on Government to reinstate contact tracing in schools

Union general secretary John Boyle said: “School leaders and teachers have put in Trojan work to ensure the reopening of schools and the delivery of classroom tuition to as many pupils as possible.

“Without the support of student teachers, the situation would have been even more challenging.

“Principals, essentially abandoned by public health during the last term, need robust, consistent and swift support as they chart the uncertain days and weeks ahead.

“In order to maximise our chances of providing in-person teaching and learning throughout this term, we again call on Government to reinstate contact tracing in schools.

“Pregnant teachers have shared their anxiety and concerns with us and we have raised these issues with the Department of Education and public health.”

Secondary schools

On Thursday evening, a spokesperson for the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) said that “some second-level schools have a full complement of student groups while others have taken a more staggered approach”.

The trade union reported that some schools were facing challenges amid widespread staff absences.

“Schools are doing their best to maximise the number of students attending while also seeking to provide the safest environment possible in very difficult circumstances,” the spokesperson said.

“This is challenging given reports from ASTI members that 15 per cent to 30 per cent of staff are absent due to Covid-related issues.

“The challenge is greatly exacerbated by the lack of freely available medical-grade masks in schools and the fact that many classrooms that require HEPA filters do not have them.”

Education officials and principals are hoping that relying on trainee teachers and replacements will be enough to cope with Covid-related absences.

Outbreak data

According to new data, more than 500 Covid-19 outbreaks linked to school staff and children were recorded in the second half of 2021.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) data covers the period between June 27th and the end of the year, and recorded 514 outbreaks linked to schoolchildren and staff.

The HPSC noted alongside the data: “Transmission of Covid-19 within the school has not necessarily been established in these outbreaks.”

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland has accused the Department of Education of failing to make a decision on the provision of high-grade masks for schools.

General secretary Michael Gillespie said: “School communities are returning to unprecedentedly challenging environments around the country today. It is absolutely critical that the department steps up and supports the efforts of staff and students to keep schools open.”

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more