Talks ongoing on plans to reopen primary schools 

There has been a lot of media speculation this week in relation to the reopening of our primary schools. The INTO wishes to confirm to members that negotiations are ongoing. We will provide an update to members when this process has concluded.

From late January the INTO worked with officials in the Department of Education, and other stakeholders, on a framework for the interim reopening of special schools and special classes in mainstream schools. We raised issues of concern to our members and negotiated a framework that took account of safety concerns around the reopening of those schools and classes. Central to that process was agreement between all the education partners that we would work constructively and not provide a running commentary. 

That process worked well. We have seen special schools successfully reopen and special classes will reopen on Monday, 22 February. 

We have committed ourselves to a confidential planning process in advance of the reopening of mainstream classes in primary schools. Again, this approach is in place to avoid uninformed speculation and commentary until the process has concluded on a plan for the phased reopening of primary schools. In recent days we have witnessed increased media speculation fuelled by a series of unhelpful leaks which have raised concern and confusion among our members as well as among parents and pupils.

We have undertaken to continue our intensive engagement towards the reopening of mainstream classes in primary schools. We have been informed that the most recent public health advice provided to government emphasises that with community infection levels expected to decrease further by the end of February, some primary school classes may return to schools from early March and that a decision on the return of remaining classes is expected thereafter subject to a close eye being kept on the prevailing public health landscape. 

The INTO remains committed to ensuring that primary and special schools receive adequate notice, supports and assurances necessary to help them to prepare for any phased reopening underpinned by expert Irish public health advice. 

We will provide a comprehensive update to members on any agreed plans for the reopening of our schools once a decision has been made, which we expect early next week.