Member update – Wider reopening of primary schools

Earlier this morning, the Department of Education informed the INTO that arrangements for the next phase of the reopening of primary schools, led by public health advice, would be made early next week.

High-risk/ pregnant members 

In light of public health developments, the INTO will continue its engagement with the Department regarding a number of issues including that of teachers who are currently categorised as high risk and teachers who are pregnant.

In particular, the INTO has raised member concerns regarding yesterday’s comments from the Deputy CMO in respect of preliminary reports of Covid Placentitis in Ireland. Members who are pregnant and have specific concerns should talk to their doctor or obstetrician.

INTO is aware that Department of Education officials will engage with expert Irish public health advisors about this and education stakeholders will be updated as early as possible next week. INTO will update members on the outcome of our discussions with the Department of Education on Monday.

Expert review groups

Expert review groups have been established in a number of areas which are of concern to INTO members.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has not recommended any change to government policy on the wearing of face coverings by pupils under 13 years of age. However it should be noted that any pupil who wishes to wear a face mask should not be discouraged from doing so. It remains the view of this union that this policy needs to be kept under review.

The Department confirmed that they have sought priority access to vaccinations for education staff and also that an expert review group will report on ventilation of buildings and antigen testing in the coming weeks.

School testing reports

At INTO’s insistence, weekly school testing reports were provided in the last term. These reports provided data on school based testing and transmission rates.

Following the reopening of special schools and special classes in mainstream schools, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has published two such weekly reports. These reports, for the periods 11-20 February and 21-27 February, show that after public health risk assessments in a small number of special schools 67 individuals were tested6 of whom tested positive. Next Tuesday the HPSC is expected to publish data on mass testing in primary schools and special schools for the week 28 February – 6 March. INTO will closely review this data.