Ongoing review of public health situation required in phased reopening of schools 

By piofficer, Tuesday, 23rd February 2021 | 0 comments

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) today confirmed its consistent position that its members are prepared to facilitate a phased and cautious return of students to schools, subject to the advice and continuing review of the situation by public health authorities. Final year Leaving Certificate students are due to return to schools from 1st March as announced by the Government this evening.    

At all times, TUI has acknowledged the vital importance of face-to-face provision for students and notes that a number of concerns that it had expressed have now been addressed and extra safeguards provided.   

However, the union also said that it must be recognised there is still considerable anxiety and concern among school staff, students and their families around the return to schools. In that context it is imperative that all safeguards and measures set out to protect health and safety in schools are adhered to. The union stated that it will not tolerate any slippage in that regard and will take decisive action to protect members in any setting where nonadherence to safety measures occurs.  

Speaking today, TUI President Martin Marjoram said:   

‘While emergency remote teaching and learning continues, the TUI has engaged intensively with the education stakeholders to work towards the safe re-opening of schools for priority groups as soon as is consistent with public health advice. More than anybody, teachers know the vital importance of face-to-face provision for students. In this regard, the first cohort of students returned this week with the re-opening of special classes in post-primary schools.’    

Additional supports and safeguards    

‘The TUI has listened carefully to the concerns and suggestions of members and, as a result of our representations, a range of additional supports and measures have been agreed to protect students and staff. These measures include a restoration and enhancement of full contact tracing and fast-track testing and, crucially, arrangements for staff in high risk health categories, those over the age of 60 and pregnant teachers to continue to provide remote teaching.     

In addition, the entire school premises may be used to enhance social distancing measures for final year Leaving Certificate students and students in special classes.’   

All safety measures must be strictly adhered to    

‘At national level, all measures must be kept under ongoing review, not least to take account of the emerging new variants of COVID-19.    

Now more than ever, all risk mitigation measures and safeguards will need to be strictly adhered to at school level. The health and safety of students, staff and their families cannot be compromised. TUI members will withdraw from engagement in situations where the measures and safeguards that protect them and their students are not being adhered to.’    

Vigilance required by all in society    

‘Communities and families must also work to protect schools by preventing transmission of the virus from the community into schools. Therefore, ongoing vigilance is required and the suppression of the virus in our communities. In this context, any member of the school community - staff or student - who has symptoms of COVID-19 or is a close contact of a confirmed case must stay at home.   

This is vital to maintaining both the confidence of the school community and a sustainable reopening of our schools for the remainder of this academic year

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