Member update – latest developments

INTO’s engagement with Department of Education officials, public health representatives and other education stakeholders continued throughout December. Following this union’s demand for the publication of up-to-date data on Covid-19 testing in education settings, weekly reports and meetings with members of NPHET have provided much needed clarity.

Weekly Mass Testing Reports

The last two HSE Reports on testing and tracing in schools indicated that from 29 November to 12 December, public health risk assessments were conducted in 135 primary and special schools with 105 individuals testing positive, which included six staff members.

In the year-to-date, mass testing has been undertaken in 618 primary and special schools where index cases were identified, with 517 individuals testing positive following the testing process. The final weekly report of 2020 will be published next Wednesday. In the coming weeks representatives of NPHET will undertake an end of term report on educational settings.

Letter from Chief Medical Officer

INTO has urged the Government to scale up a public awareness campaign targeting parents over the Christmas break. We welcome the decision by Dr. Tony Holohan to write an open letter to parents and urge members to share this within your school communities.

The Department of Education has provided assurances to this union that they will amplify public health messaging, launching a new public awareness campaign prior to the reopening of schools next month.

Covid-19 Vaccine 

Following INTO representation to Government, teachers and fellow education staff have been included in the priority list for the Covid-19 vaccine. INTO will continue to press Government for early access to the vaccine for school staff.

Support to schools dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks 

The INTO is providing support and guidance to members in a small number of schools who are dealing with cases of Covid-19. While we are raising the underlying issues with the Department of Education and Public Health, the priority right now is to help our members in these schools to deal with the immediate task at hand.

The pandemic has presented many challenges for schools this year. Our principal teachers and all those who work in primary and special schools are to be commended for the way they have coped with these challenges.

What support does INTO provide to schools dealing with a Covid-19 outbreak? 

We provide support through head office and CEC in a range of areas, for example:

  • Legal and technical guidance
  • Advice on leave entitlements
  • Help with public statements
  • Assistance with the sourcing of substitute teachers
  • Liaise with health authorities where there are delays
  • Raise issues with the Department of Education/NPHET and school managerial authorities.

Please note, INTO does not comment publicly on individual cases/schools. Our priority is to help our members in relevant schools.

Guidance on End of Term/ Christmas Events 

The Department of Education has published updated guidance on the arrangements for the end of term – Christmas 2020 – which focuses on celebrations and gatherings.

Guidance on School Placement

The Department of Education has published updated guidance on school placement (for the remainder of this school year).

INTO understands that further guidance will issue in January.

Grant Payment to Schools

The Department of Education has confirmed that the second moiety of funding for sanitisation and PPE will be lodged into BOM accounts shortly.

Return to Work Safely Protocol  

INTO has been advised that this protocol requires that staff should confirm that the details in their pre-return to work form remain unchanged on school reopening following the Christmas break. The form was originally completed at the beginning of the school year. This can be communicated to the school principal verbally or by text or email. The school should keep note of these confirmations.

We expect guidance on this to issue shortly from the Department of Education.