Most children will not be back in school next month and may not return to the classroom until close to Easter, according to Government sources.
The Government’s Cabinet committee on Covid-19 is due to receive fresh guidance over the reopening schools from public health experts ahead of a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
As the Irish Times reports, while a full return to school is unlikely until mid to late March, sources say there remains a determination to reopen special education as a priority in February if virus transmission rates continue to fall.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said at the weekend that he believed schools will most likely reopen in a phased way, but not all students would be back at school by St Patrick’s Day.
Meanwhile, talks over contingency plans for the Leaving Cert are to intensify this week amid growing expectation that a formal decision on the future of the exams will be made shortly.
The Department of Education is due to meet with secondary education partners to discuss “further possible options” for the exams.
A spokesman for the Minister declined to comment on when a decision over the future of the Leaving Cert will be made beyond stating that the situation was “fluid”.
The Government is coming under pressure from opposition parties to clarify its plans for the Leaving Cert.
Labour Party leader Alan Kelly TD said he expects the exams will now be cancelled and has called for a decision to be made by February 1st.
Up until recently, Minister for Education Norma Foley said it was the Government’s firm intention to press ahead with a “traditional” Leaving Cert.
However, the continued closure of schools means this will be challenging given looming deadlines for oral and practical exams and concern over inequality of access to education.
Last year, the written Leaving Cert exams in June were cancelled and replaced by a system of calculated grades, which involved teachers assessing their own students.