26th March 2020
Do take care of your mental health.
Members are advised to take care of their mental health during this prolonged closure. INTO has produced some helpful articles including ‘Self-care tips for your body, mind and spirit’ and ‘Teachers – Take care!’ which will provide you with some useful strategies in this regard.
Do develop your skills in facilitating pupil learning from a distance.
This is a difficult time for many parents and guardians as they navigate the uncharted territory of home-learning; it can be hard to know what to do or where to start. As a teacher, you have invaluable knowledge you can share online to the benefit of others.
Education is an essential service and we need to ensure, so far as reasonably possible, that the children in our schools and classes continue to engage with a range of learning activities.
By offering guidance and practical advice, you’ll be providing vital tools to those managing home learning for the first time and can help keep children’s learning on track during this unprecedented time while schools are closed. Post links to recommended teaching resources that provide useful material for parents and guardians who are suddenly feeling the pressure of creating their own curriculum. It’s also a good idea to reassure families who are struggling that they’re not expected to re-create school at home. Children may be feeling anxious and if they’re finding it difficult to keep up with structured learning, they can learn other life skills at home through cooking, baking, physical exercise, play and meditation. INTO has compiled a comprehensive list of home-schooling resources for you to share.
The Professional Development Support Service (PDST) has assembled a list of resources for distance learning and this can be accessed at https://www.pdst.ie/DistanceLearning. In a recent trend, teachers are taking to social media to offer help to their online community. In a post, teachers state their area of expertise, whether they teach in primary or secondary, and offer their support to parents and guardians who are at home with young children or home-schooling. This can be a great support but ensure that you prioritise the learning of the children in your own school.
Members are reminded that if you are providing support online, consider setting up an email/social media presence specifically for professional purposes rather than providing access to your personal account.
Do complete the actions required by the DES staffing circular (18/2020) before 3 April.
The DES has notified us that the date for return of forms and documentation related to the Staffing Circular (Main Panel application forms, CID forms, Staffing Appeals Applications) has been extended to 3 April (from 27 March).
INTO encourages principals (and teachers where this is a devolved duty) to complete and return these forms as soon as they can, if they can do so safely and in line with COVID-19 guidelines, in order to minimise disruption to the staffing and redeployment process for the next school year
All schools will receive the Staff Planning Form next week and the required return date for these forms is Wednesday 22nd April. This closing date is to facilitate schools that may have to manage late withdrawals of career breaks by applicants (As per Chapter Seven of circular 54/2019 – https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0054_2019.pdf#page=102 other than in exceptional circumstances, a teacher won’t be allowed to withdraw their application for career break later than 14 April)
In consideration of the current challenges, schools have the option to email a scanned signed copy of the Main Panel forms and the Staff Planning Form to the following Department address at firstname.lastname@example.org. A copy of the original should be retained in the school for future reference.
Don’t record your school as closed on your OLCS.
It is important to note that there is no requirement for a school to record a ‘school closure’ on the OLCS due to this government decision. Where a substitute was scheduled to work in the period of the school closure, then the school should continue to record that claim. The substitute will be paid for that scheduled absence. Substitute claims cannot be claimed in advance on the OLCS, therefore, it is important that schools key all absences and input claims for substitutes on the On-Line Claims System (OLCS) as normal.
Please refer to the DES information note for more detail.
Don’t undertake any other form of paid work during the closure.
Members should be conscious that during the current school closure they remain on the DES payroll and are employees of their school. As such, they may be called upon to provide reasonable and appropriate support to the school and to pupils in support of their learning. During this period, it is not advised that teachers undertake any other form of paid work. Members are reminded that, for example, offering paid childcare services during contracted hours may be regarded as a breach of their employment contract. Teachers should at all times have regard to the code of professional conduct as set out by the Teaching Council. Many teachers have, outside of their contractual hours, been volunteering in a variety of ways to help those in need within their communities. This voluntary spirit is to be commended.
Do support your community during this period.
Looking after your community
You may know someone in your neighbourhood who may be in the higher risk category or who feels particularly vulnerable at this worrying time. Reach out to them, by phone or even a note in the letterbox, to let them know you are thinking of them and offer to assist with shopping, collect a prescription or walk the dog. Small gestures such as these can have a profound uplifting effect and even a simple ‘hello’ can help alleviate loneliness.
HSE – ‘Be On Call for Ireland’
If you would like to support the health services and you think you have a relevant skillset that can help, the HSE has begun a major recruitment drive for healthcare professionals and volunteers. If you’d like to find out more, read the FAQ here. You can set up a profile in order to register your interest. You can also upload your CV, listing any useful skills you may have that could be put to good use.
If you are in good health and want to formally volunteer, you can register with Volunteer Ireland (www.volunteer.ie) in your local Volunteer Centre. Volunteer Ireland expects to receive a large volume of advertisements for COVID-19-related volunteer roles in the coming days and weeks. These roles will include COVID-19 support roles and others will be to help maintain services in local community organisations.
Do take your Easter break as normal.
We all need a break.
No formal lessons or instructions should be provided by teachers during the Easter period. Schools should ensure that parents and pupils are aware that any home based/ remote learning will not take place during this break. We are all in this together and parents need our help, so we are encouraging our members to provide some guidance to parents on activities for their children during the break (reading, useful websites for learning, activities on the theme of Easter etc.). Pupils should be encouraged to keep up their reading and other learning activities.
We know that teachers will continue to volunteer to support their local communities in the coming weeks.
Do follow HSE advice if you need to access your school building.
In light of government advice issued this week “individuals should work from home unless attendance at the workplace is absolutely necessary” and in order to comply with social distancing advice from HSE. INTO recommends that teachers should not congregate in their school buildings between now and April 19.
However, the Department of Education and Skills did clarify in a letter to principals and teachers on March 25 that although schools are closed to students, teachers who need access to their classrooms, ICT equipment or other teaching resources can attend the school building, once HSE advice is correctly observed.
In the interest of saving lives, please adhere to all government directives regarding physical distancing, travel and work practices. Read the Government’s advice on physical distancing here.
Effective from 6pm, Monday March 30 access to school buildings will no longer be accessible to school staff until Sunday, April 12. An exemption exists in the case of school staff involved in the distribution of school meals to vulnerable pupils. School staff involved in planning for the distribution of school meals should do so under the direction of BOMs and should avoid travelling to school buildings unless it is absolutely necessary.