Guidance issued to schools ahead of limited reopening of special education 

Following another constructive meeting with officials in the Department of Education today, we have secured clarity for our members on a host of issues from transport to childcare to updated public health advice.

The Department of Education has this evening written to schools to outline plans for provision from next Thursday.

INTO had appealed to the department to issue this guidance earlier today and we are disappointed that it has issued so late on a Friday evening.

A copy of the letter is available here.

Further information and FAQs will be available from Monday.

Public health experts who support the school sector and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Colette Bonner, HSE Assistant National Director for Public Health Dr Kevin Kelleher and Public Health Consultant Dr Abigail Collin will host a webinar for special education staff on Monday afternoon (15:30). We hope this will provide reassurance to our members that all necessary steps are being taken to ensure the safety of all involved in this interim support programme for children with complex special educational needs.

The webinar will cover:

  • Safety of school return in the current phase of the pandemic
  • Safety of special education provision in a COVID-19 context
  • Principles of the public health approach
  • Public health risk assessment in schools
  • The enhanced schools teams
  • Close contacts, testing and tracing
  • Communications with parents and the school community

An invitation to the webinar has issued to all relevant schools.

High level meetings regarding the prioritisation of special education staff for the vaccination programme are also taking place.

While supporting the continuity of learning remotely is far from ideal, we hope to be able to return to our classrooms fully, but it remains to be seen if the public health landscape improves enough to enable the resumption of classroom-based learning. We echo the comments of the Chief Medical Officer that now is the time for us all to do our part to help lower transmission rates.