News

Provision of medical grade masks in schools

By piofficer 12 Jan 2022 | 0 comments
As you will be aware, the TUI made strong representation to the Department of Education both before and after Christmas in relation to the provision of FFP2 masks. The Department has this week issued correspondence confirming that schools may use their COVID-19 capitation funding to provide such masks. It has also provided a list of suppliers and product codes.  However, this will only be of value to school staff if the procurement process is fit for purpose and does not add to the already significant administrative workload in schools.  We will continue to raise these and other arising issues related to the safe operation of schools in our engagements with the Department of Education and public health representatives.   

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TUI supports full return to all State Examinations this year

By piofficer 10 Jan 2022 | 0 comments
It is the strong position of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) that the traditional State Examinations must take place this year. The current circumstances are radically different from previous years and there is no justification for offering additional options to students. On that basis, the TUI will not support any other options.  Recent contributions from some political parties around this issue are unhelpful and will inevitably lead to more uncertainty in school communities that are already struggling with the varied consequences of the pandemic. We are already receiving reports of students disengaging because of an expectation that they will not have to sit examinations. This is very damaging to the education system and to the prospects of those students. Schools have remained open throughout this academic year and despite obvious challenges at present due to infections and isolation requirements, the consistent messaging from those with expertise in the area is that current high numbers of COVID-19 cases will fall in the near future. The scheduling of Orals and Music Practicals in the traditional Easter break has created additional tuition time that would not previously have been available, balancing somewhat the losses in time that students have experienced.  In 2020 and 2021, teachers demonstrated flexibility and commitment by engaging with emergency assessment processes on a ‘without precedent’ basis so that final year students could progress to the next stage of their lives. Our co-operation with these processes was only on the basis of absolute necessity and this remains the case.  The standardisation process was vitally important in the last two years, but cannot be replicated this year because more than half of students in some schools have no Junior Cycle data. In other schools, where there is no Transition Year programme, no student will have Junior Cycle data for the standardisation process.   Advocates for a repeat of the emergency methods are therefore advocating for something that is either impossible or else will be radically changed and involve historical school data that would be hugely unfair for many students. We will continue to engage with the other stakeholders. We believe that further consideration could be given to extending the breadth of topics covered in papers or adjusting marking schemes, and any other reasonable measures that might take account of this year’s circumstances as we see how the situation evolves.  But the TUI’s clear position is that the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations across all Leaving Certificate programmes must return this year, with all additional and second components of assessment such as Orals, Practicals and project work etc. in place for the benefit of all students.   

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All necessary steps must be taken to ensure safe re-opening of third level education – TUI

By piofficer 07 Jan 2022 | 0 comments
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has said it is vitally important that the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science (DFHERIS) takes all necessary steps to ensure the safe re-opening of third level education at a time when the country is affected by the highest COVID-19 case numbers since the onset of the pandemic.

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TUI statement following meeting with Department of Education – further meeting required on key issues

By piofficer 04 Jan 2022 | 0 comments
At a meeting with the Minister for Education, Department of Education representatives and public health representatives today, the TUI and other stakeholders were informed that, in public health terms, there was no rationale to delay the re-opening of schools.  Because the meeting did not engage on the operational details that may need to be applied from Thursday, the TUI insisted on the need for a further meeting, which will take place tomorrow. In this regard, the union had earlier insisted that schools must have flexibility on how they re-open based on their particular circumstances. The TUI also made clear that given the significant concern around the Omicron variant, the operation of schools must be kept under constant review.  The union was informed that a detailed document will issue providing clarity on isolation periods and the use of antigen tests along with the familiar PCR testing system.  It was also confirmed at the meeting that teachers will continue to follow the standard testing, tracing and isolating regime that applies to society generally.  A review of the standard of masks to be utilised in education settings will also be undertaken given the transmissibility of the Omicron variant. 

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‘One-size-fits-all’ approach on re-opening of schools will not work and urgent action required on HEPA filters and masks

By piofficer 04 Jan 2022 | 0 comments
Ahead of a meeting with the Department of Education today on the re-opening of schools, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has said it is essential that individual schools be allowed to choose how they re-open based on their particular circumstances, as no two schools will be the same in terms of staff availability due to the effects of the pandemic.  In some cases, there will inevitably be restrictions on the number of students who will be able to attend school due to teacher shortages. Clearly, any situation where groups of students in attendance cannot be supervised is unacceptable on health and safety grounds. It is TUI’s strong position that in situations where priority needs to be provided, it should be given to students in special needs classes, students with special and additional needs and students in examination years.  There is grave concern among teachers at how transmissible the Omicron strain of COVID is. Once again, we are demanding the provision of appropriate quantities of FFP2 masks to all schools.  At today’s meeting, the Union will once again demand that HEPA filters be provided to all schools that require them. Funding was made available for such devices before Christmas but the cap on this must immediately be lifted for schools that require additional resourcing. Beyond this, mechanical ventilation systems need to be provided as a long-term solution for individual classrooms or areas where poor ventilation has been identified by CO2 monitors.  We are entering unchartered territory and all matters must be kept under review based on the very latest public health advice.  TUI has repeatedly made the point that that as a result of historic underinvestment by international standards, Irish schools have been forced to tackle the huge challenges of COVID-19 with large class sizes, over-stretched pastoral support systems for students and education facilities often unsuited to modern teaching and learning. There was already a teacher recruitment and retention crisis before schools ever had to deal with the additional challenges of COVID-19. The genesis of this crisis can be traced back to imposition by Government of the two-tier system of pay discrimination against those employed from 2011 onwards. Teacher supply, recruitment and retention problems will continue at second level until this is resolved.  

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Additional resourcing for safeguards must immediately be provided to schools where required – TUI 

By piofficer 22 Dec 2021 | 0 comments
At a meeting of the education stakeholders today, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) once again stated that the Department of Education must provide clear guidance and access to expertise on ventilation and related issues on an ongoing basis so that schools can best use the resources made available. The union also made clear that if individual schools require additional funding over and above what has been provided for such solutions, this must immediately be made available.  

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Department must provide access to expertise on best usage of COVID-19 funding  - TUI  

By piofficer 13 Dec 2021 | 0 comments
Noting the announcement of additional funding being provided to schools to tackle COVID-19, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has said that the Department must provide clear guidance and access to expertise on ventilation and related issues so that schools can best use the resources available. The union also wants the Department to pro-actively investigate and invest in any solutions that would further boost safety in the months ahead.   

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