Ms Foley’s comments come after teachers’ unions expressed concern that children would not be able return to school safely after the mid-term break due to rising cases of Covid-19 in the community and perceived weaknesses in testing and contract tracing for schools.
Acknowledging that there “will always be concerns” the Minister said that “when schools closed in March there was concern whether we could ever successfully reopen schools. But because of the efforts of all there has been a very safe and successful return”.
The Minister said public health resources for testing and tracing in schools would be “broadened and strengthened”.
School teams were being put in place in each HSE area supporting the work of public health teams, she explained.
Ms Foley said everybody in the school sector was working to keep schools open and continue children’s education safely through the pandemic.
“Everything that’s being done, every step of the way, is underpinned by public health,” she told RTÉ radio’s News at One.
On the return to school after Halloween, this will give “a strengthened approach” to public health resources, she said, which would be deployed into schools when necessary.
Ms Foley said the current plan is to go ahead with Leaving Certificate written exams on November 16th.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said it “cannot be convinced” children will safely return to school after the mid-term break.
“Back in March the Government made the right decision to close schools, we worked so hard to reopen schools, but three months on I cannot be convinced by Micheál Martin’s comments last night that the children will be returning after Halloween to a safe school and of course it’s vital that their education continues, but it’s even more vital for their families that they will remain safe,” general secretary John Boyle said.
He said “the shambolic approach of public health to the tracking, to the testing and the surveillance of our sector is going to be sorted out before the first Monday in November”.