Education Minister urged to clarify back-to-school plans

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Muireann Duffy
Education Minister Norma Foley is coming under increased pressure to present plans on how children may return to school in September.

As the summer ticks away, parents, teachers and schools have expressed concern regarding the lack of information on whether schools will reopen in a few weeks’ time, and if so, what procedures will be implemented.

Issues such as socially distancing younger child, class sizes and uniforms are yet to be addressed by the Minister.

A number of schools who are due to lose a teacher in September due to reduced enrolment figures are urging the Department of Education to reverse the cuts.

As reported in The Irish Times, over 700 parents of student in Holy Rosary National School in Co Wicklow have signed a petition, saying the loss of a teaching position there will make it harder to implement public health guidelines.

Rampark Nation School in Co Louth and Scoil Íde in Co Dublin are also calling for action as they face similar cuts to posts.


However, the Department of Education said these rules operate in a clear and transparent manner.

Separately, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the department also needs to make it clear if students will have to wear school uniforms whenever they return to school.

Over 80% of schools require their students to wear uniforms, but there are concerns whether they would have to be washed every day for hygiene reasons because of Covid-19.

Mary Lou McDonald says many parents want to know if their children need to wear uniforms or not.

All these things are still outstanding and it is astonishing with just a few short weeks to go that staff, students and indeed parents are still very much in the dark.

This follows comments from the Tánaiste, who said it will reflect badly on the country if schools do not re-opened next month.

Leo Varadkar said that it is still the plan to open schools fully:

“There are other countries that have suffered much worse than us in this pandemic and never closed their schools fully.

“I do think that it would reflect badly on us as politicians, on the Government and on the education partners if we were unable to open our schools in August.”

Ms Foyle is expected to bring plans to Cabinet next week on the reopening of schools.

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