INTO calls for deferral of changes to contact tracing until reliable data is available

Proposed changes to contact tracing arrangements in primary schools from next Monday should be deferred until reliable data on outbreaks in primary schools is available, the INTO has said.

Union representatives insisted at a tense weekly meeting with the Department of Education and public health advisors that any change to risk assessments, contact tracing and restriction of movement protocols must be phased in and based on complete data on mass testing in schools.

Media reports that contact tracing of asymptomatic pupils identified as close contacts will be abandoned next Monday could cause mass confusion for school principals, staff, parents and children, the union believes.

The INTO is particularly concerned, given that it was acknowledged by the Department of Education today that there was a deficiency in the data obtained from mass testing in primary schools but were still proceeding to change Covid protection measures.

The union has identified a disparity between the official HSE figures which show over four thousand children (aged 5 – 12) contracting Covid in the last fortnight, compared with the much smaller number identified in weekly school testing reports issued by the HSPC since schools reopened.

The HSE reported yesterday that between September 6 and 19 there were 4170 positive cases in 5- to 12-year-olds, yet the data provided by the HPSC covering August 29 to September 18 shows Covid detected in only 741 children after mass testing in 788 primary schools. However, two weeks ago, the HSE reported outbreaks in more than 800 primary schools.

The INTO proposes that any changes should be made from Monday November 1st when schools reopen after mid-term break. This would allow time for better data to be obtained and sufficient time for considered analysis and to allow for the proposed changes to be implemented in an orderly fashion.

The INTO’s position is supported by other key primary and special education stakeholders. The INTO believes that delaying any changes until after the Mid Term break will better serve our primary schools, special schools and local communities for the remainder of the school term.