Clarification on outstanding issues

The INTO has been seeking clarification on a number of outstanding issues which we have raised with the Department of Education since the Roadmap For The Full Reopening of Primary and Special Schools was published a month ago. Below we summarise updates received on a range of matters in recent days.

Teachers with underlying health conditions

Today, Minister Foley has written to INTO to advise that, where a teacher with underlying health conditions has remaining concerns about their risk categorisation, the occupational health service (Medmark) will arrange a review by an internal team of occupational health specialists to ensure the outcome is consistent with public health guidelines. Additional information provided by the teacher’s medical advisors can be considered in such instances.

The INTO welcomes this change of heart by government.

Children with underlying health conditions

The department has published detailed guidance on procedures for supporting children with underlying health conditions who are unable to return to schools. That guidance can be downloaded here. The Irish version can be downloaded here.

INTO has also received clarification on the matters below:

Staff meetings/assemblies 

In relation to staff meetings/assemblies, the department has advised:

The re-opening of schools is a key national priority.

As part of the suite of public health measures, limits were placed on gatherings in other settings in order to support the re-opening of schools which by its nature involves significant numbers of staff and students in school buildings.

The public health guidance recommends 2m physical distancing between staff in schools.

When organising staff meetings, full school/year group assemblies school management should make every possible effort to hold them remotely or in small groups or in large spaces in order to maintain 2m distance and to avoid large gatherings.”

Movement of staff between and within schools 

The department has advised that for teachers moving routinely between schools (for example, substitute teachers and special education teachers), it will not be possible to eliminate the movement entirely. However where teachers move between schools they should, where possible, stay in the same school for a full day, take particular care to maintain physical distancing and proper hand and respiratory hygiene, and keep records of their contacts in case they are needed for contact tracing purposes.

Travel Abroad 

Government policy advises against non-essential travel overseas. Anyone coming into Ireland from a country other than those on the ‘green list’ must restrict their movements for 14 days.

The school has a duty of care to all pupils and staff and if it feels that this duty is being undermined in a circumstance where a staff member or pupil has not observed the mandatory requirement to self-isolate for 14 days, the department advised that it is reasonable for the school to refuse access to the pupil or staff member for this period.

School Uniforms

The wearing of school uniforms remains a matter for each school. The department has not issued any additional guidance on this.

Temperature Checking

Daily temperature checking is not recommended. Parents and pupils should not attend school if they feel unwell and/or have any COVID-19 symptoms.

Ventilation of Classrooms 

The department has advised the opening of doors and windows, where possible, to ensure good ventilation in classrooms. Detailed guidance from the department on ensuring good ventilation in classrooms is available here.

Visitors to Schools 

Visits to schools should be minimised as much as possible but, where outside visitors do attend, this should be by prior appointment and received at a specific contact point. They should follow proper hygiene practices and maintain 2 metres physical distance from pupils and staff. Visitors should sign a contact tracing log, which each school is required to keep. The department confirmed at this week’s stakeholder consultation meeting that schools should endeavour to facilitate regular visitors, for example, health professionals and sports coaches.

INTO will continue to seek clarification on remaining issues of concern to members in the coming days.

Details of the Department of Education’s response to these matters is available here.