The largest teachers' trade union has urged the Department of Education to “reconsider” a plan to resume special needs education later this week.
In-class learning is set to begin again on Thursday as part of a phased reopening of schools.
However, in a statement on Monday evening, the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) said a public health webinar for school staff had failed to adequately address “grave safety concerns”.
It said teachers are anxious while community infection levels remain very high and that Thursday's resumption should be delayed.
📢 Update: Serious safety concerns must be addressed prior to any reopening of schools...
The INTO’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) has said that teachers’ grave safety concerns have not been adequately addressed by today’s public health webinar and by Government...
— INTO (Irish National Teachers' Organisation) (@INTOnews) January 18, 2021
The union said it will continue to engage with the Department and public health authorities in an effort to work towards a phased reopening.
“However, up-to-date, reliable information and supports are essential if this effort is to succeed,” the statement said.
INTO president Mary Magner said: “We have heard the concerns of teachers in recent days and, while teachers across the country are keen to get back to the classroom, they are scared.
“Teachers are committed to supporting their vulnerable pupils but the safety of staff is vital.”
INTO general secretary John Boyle said Monday’s webinar did not address teachers’ concerns. “The Government must take responsibility for poor and untimely communication and mixed messages over the past two weeks,” he said.
“The failure of Minister Foley and Minister Madigan to engage in proper consultation in the last two weeks has been very damaging and it has hampered the planning for the safe reopening of schools.
“We have made progress on some of our key concerns in recent days, but there is more work to be done to ensure the safety of staff, pupils, and their families, including a higher prioritisation of education staff for vaccination.
“We will continue to be constructive and work with our colleagues in Fórsa and with the Department of Education towards the safe, orderly reopening of schools.”