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Schools closed until 1st Feb with two exceptions


Posted by SchoolDays Newshound, on 06/01/2021. Schools closed until 1st Feb with two exceptionsTags: Parenting Education And Politics



As part of new restrictions to tackle rising Covid-19 infections, the Government has confirmed this afternoon that Schools will remain closed until 1 February, except for the provision of special education (special schools and special classes) and specialised settings (such as Oberstown and high support special care schools and youth encounter projects) which will continue fully open from 11 January.

All 6th year Leaving Certificate students can attend school for 3 days a week commencing from the week beginning 11 January.

Youthreach services will resume as scheduled.

The resumption of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme is delayed until 1 February.

Higher, further and adult education should remain primarily online.


The Ministers full statement on extended school closures and Leaving Certificate & Special needs arrangements is available HERE


Comments

SchoolDays

(06/01/2021 16:51)


ASTI Statement 6/1/2021

No credible level of assurance that schools will be safe next week

The ASTI says it has not been provided with a credible level of assurance by the Government that schools will be safe places next week.

Following a meeting with representatives from the Department of Education and Skills today, the ASTI said the union has no access to medical data demonstrating that schools are sufficiently safe for students and teachers at this time, in the context of the new variant and the alarmingly high numbers.

The union said it is concerned that today’s Government decision has been made without full consideration of potential consequences to current public health objectives.

The union said that it continues to engage with the Department of Education and Skills and will meet public health officials with a view to discussing all the implications of today’s Government decision.

SchoolDays

(06/01/2021 17:06)


TUI Statement 6/1/2021

Responding to today’s announcement regarding provision for Leaving Certificate students next week, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has expressed serious concern around both the health and safety risks and logistical problems posed by the move.

The union has said it is completely unacceptable that it was not consulted by the Department and says that engagement on the matter with the education stakeholders is urgently required.

Comments from TUI President Martin Marjoram

‘We are gravely concerned by today’s developments. This premature decision of Government is deeply damaging to the trust and confidence that has allowed us to keep schools open since September, despite the various problems. Our members do not have trust and confidence that opening schools to Leaving Certificate students as is proposed can be safely achieved under the current circumstances.

We are seriously concerned by both the health and safety risks and logistical problems posed by this move at this time.

As we represent the staff who will be at risk next week, it is also completely unacceptable that we were only consulted by the Department of Education after this proposal was brought to Cabinet.

Further engagement with the TUI and the other stakeholders, including public health representatives, is urgently required.

The proposed opening of schools for Leaving Certificate students will inevitably see large numbers of people – teachers, other staff and students – mixing in confined spaces at a time when the unambiguous public health advice to the population is to do the exact opposite. At a time of significant rise in positive COVID-19 cases and large numbers in isolation due to contact tracing plus the serious concerns about the new variant of the disease, this appears to be an extremely dangerous risk to take.

Moreover, if COVID-19 gains a foothold in schools, the inevitable result will be an increase in infection rates and resultant teacher absence, putting at severe risk the service to all students.

Aside from the very real health and safety concerns for students, staff and the wider community, implementing the proposed return for Leaving Certificate students will be a logistical nightmare, not least in terms of timetabling. Students in other years still have to be catered for, along with those Leaving Certificate students who, for a variety of reasons, will not be in a position to attend.

There are also unanswered questions across a wide range of other issues.

In addition, significant numbers of teachers are themselves parents of young children and will have childcare issues of their own from next Monday as a result of the move to remote learning across the education system.

The TUI has consistently sought to work with the Department of Education to ensure that, in spite of the constraints associated with the pandemic, our students can continue to have access to high quality education provision. Much has been achieved on the basis of this collaborative approach. The teachers and principal teachers we represent have not been found wanting.

Our sole and entirely reasonable insistence is that school re-opening must, to be greatest extent possible, be safe for all in the school community.

The TUI would strongly urge government and the Minister to engage with us and re-consider the matter.’

SchoolDays

(06/01/2021 17:07)


INTO Statement 6/1/2021

Rushed and reckless decision on reopening special educational settings risks undermining public health objectives

After two days of increasing speculation, the government has today announced the closure of the majority of primary schools until 1 February 2021. For the second time during this pandemic, mainstream primary education will move online. The INTO understands that special schools, special classes and other specialised settings – secure units etc. will reopen on Monday, 11 January 2021. The Department of Education did not consult with the INTO on this decision to provide face to face education for children with special educational needs.

The INTO and other key stakeholders in primary and special education were invited to a very short briefing meeting this afternoon. The INTO and other stakeholders expressed serious concern about the Department’s expectation that these specialised settings could simply reopen fully from next Monday without necessary preparation time and protections required for staff and students when virtually everyone else in the country was being forced to stay at home in a frantic effort to flatten the curve.

Special schools, students and staff do not exist in a bubble separate from wider society. The sustainable and safe reopening of these schools and classes should be based on specific health advice, with adequate preparation and a staged reopening. The rushed plan as laid out today is reckless and takes unnecessary risks which could easily be avoided. In light of public health advice, it is questionable whether attendance at such premises will be other than minimal.

It is ironic that building sites are being closed on public health grounds just as pupils and staff are sent to work together with little evidence of additional safety assessments, specific public health review of risk and clear additional supports.

The INTO has insisted that any decisions being made by government regarding the re-opening of schools, and in particular special educational settings, would be under-pinned by the most up-to-date public health advice. In particular we have drawn attention to the increasing number of young children who have tested positive for Covid-19 within the last two weeks and sought a thorough analysis of these figures relating to any new variants of the virus.

We are calling on the public health authorities to carry out an assessment of the safety of opening special schools, classes and specialised educational settings and to make recommendations to ensure the safety of staff and pupils.

Access to school buildings and childcare
The INTO was briefed today that teachers are authorised to access school buildings to support remote learning as needed and the 5km travel restriction will not apply in this instance or for education staff who will be facilitating face to face learning in specialised settings.

However, we urge that schools would ensure that as far as possible, teachers are able to comply with public health guidance and remain at home.

We were also informed that childcare provision would be made for special education staff, but there was no clarity on how this would work.

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