INTO meeting with Minister Foley – update for members

Following the announcement of the three day extension to the school holidays, INTO sought urgent meetings with the Department of Education officials and representatives of NPHET.

INTO and fellow primary education stakeholders attended a meeting with Minister Foley and her officials this afternoon.

INTO expressed disappointment that public health representatives were not in attendance and sought a further meeting with them at the earliest opportunity.

The INTO demanded that any decisions being made by government regarding the re-opening of schools would be under-pinned by the most up-to-date public health advice. In particular the INTO drew attention to the increasing number of young children who had tested positive for Covid-19 within the last two weeks and sought a thorough analysis of these figures relating to any new variants of the virus.

INTO reiterated its demand that education workers be given higher prioritisation for Covid-19 vaccination; that regular serial testing be arranged for all school staff and that a full review of the wearing of face-coverings by primary school pupils be undertaken.

The Minister for Education and her officials confirmed that the school support teams in HSE areas are being augmented; that individual schools who require additional funding for PPE will receive it; and that government intends to continue rolling out mass testing and tracing including the testing of close contacts in educational settings.

The Department confirmed that they will be reviewing the funding provided to date for PPE, sanitising and cleaning, and following this review, details of the third and final instalment of these grants for the 2020 / 2021 school year will be made available in due course.

Department of Education Officials also stated that they will be acting on INTO’s pre-Christmas recommendation that a robust public awareness campaign be commenced this month, prior to the safe re-opening of schools.

We will update members on progress following tomorrow’s CEC meeting.