14th May 2020
Any decision to reopen our primary schools must be led primarily by public health advice. In advance of the reopening of schools there must be meaningful engagement with workers and their unions. On foot of calls from the INTO, a formal consultation has now begun with the Department of Education and Skills.
Over the last number of weeks, INTO consulted elected branch and district officers, as well as national committee members to identify the key issues which must be considered in detail before our schools can reopen.
INTO has submitted a detailed document to the Department of Education and Skills outlining the key issues which must be considered in the coming weeks. A copy of our submission is available here.
INTO is seeking agreement on a number of principles governing the operation of schools/ education provision during the Covid-19 period, including that:
- Priority must be given to the safety and physical/mental health and wellbeing of staff, pupils and parents in primary schools;
- Children’s learning and development, including their wellbeing must be supported by schools and relevant support services such as NEPS and CAMHs which must be increased to cope with needs of school communities;
- A collaborative approach to developing and implementing procedures and protocols at national level is essential. Individual schools cannot be asked to develop their own guidance;
- All key decision makers should approach the health, safety and wellbeing of each other with compassion and understanding;
- That adequate resources will be allocated to schools by the DES to implement the comprehensive health and safety measures required for schools to operate safely; and
- There must be an acknowledgement that for the duration of the public health crisis, there will be a need to accommodate a changed school environment. This must be taken into account by the Inspectorate, NCSE and other DES sections and agencies. It will be necessary to suspend inspections and initiatives other than those which are aimed at contributing to the school’s efforts to maintain the health and well-being of the school community for the period of the crisis.
INTO will be demanding:
- Clear and unambiguous guidance from government;
- Adequate funding for additional cleaning and other critical services in schools which may be necessary;
- New school policy templates where necessary;
- Access to any prescribed health and safety equipment;
- Training for cleaning staff;
- A thorough child-friendly informational campaign, including educational videos and signage to help pupils understand social distancing and personal hygiene requirements.
These and many other issues will be explored.
INTO will be carefully monitoring the implementation and outcomes of approaches in other jurisdictions to inform our engagement.