The general secretary of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI), Michael Gillespie, has called for clarity on isolation measures so that it can be determined if schools can reopen on Thursday.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Gillespie said that public health advice was needed about the duration of self-isolation times so teachers and students will know if they can return to school.
“We need to get an idea of the numbers in schools that will be missing.”
Mr Gillespie said that the TUI had always advocated for disadvantaged students, and they were very much aware of the impact of school closures on such students.
He was responding to a question about comments from the special rapporteur on Children who expressed concern about the impact of school closures on children.
When asked about an Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) call for a staggered return, Mr Gillespie said it was too early to say if that would work. The situation was not “one size fits all” as schools could have different levels of attendance.
Minister for Education Norma Foley and Department officials will meet unions and school management bodies on Tuesday ahead of the planned reopening of schools on Thursday, which is set to go ahead despite the Omicron wave of Covid-19.
Senior Government figures told The Irish Times that schools would reopen as planned, however, the Coalition will face strong opposition from teaching unions.
Government leaders have consistently said the priority is to keep schools open.
The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) said last night (Monday) it is “deeply concerned” schools may reopen without additional measures being introduced for the protection of staff and students.
The union, which represents around 18,500 secondary teachers, met on Monday to assess the return of schools as Covid-19 cases hit record highs, fuelled by the Omicron variant.
The meeting heard that there is unease among members around the safety of staff and pupils.
“The ASTI is deeply concerned that the Minister for Education may reopen schools without putting in place additional measures necessary to safeguard the health and safety of students and school staff,” the union said in a statement.
“This would constitute an unacceptable risk in the context of the Omicron wave.
“There is uncertainty regarding the impact in schools of this significantly more transmissible variant.”