Minister Norma Foley
Department of Education,
August 4, 2020.
Our members have taken the opportunity in the last week to study the “Roadmap For The Full Return To School”. While many aspects of the plans have been warmly welcomed, our members still have some concerns about their own health and well-being and that of their pupils. On behalf of our members, I seek your response on a number of significant issues raised with us, as representatives of almost 40,000 primary teachers in this jurisdiction.
We are pleased that weekly stakeholder consultations will continue until after schools reopen safely in less than four weeks’ time.
We now request and recommend that your Department commits to the following within the next fortnight prior to our members returning to school buildings
- The reviewing of the HSE/HSPC June 2020 “Interim recommendations for the reopening of schools and educational facilities”. That document explicitly stated that it would be “updated to reflect the changing situation” in the context of COVID-19 epidemiology in Ireland, and a review was also promised in light of the experience of other jurisdictions whose schools reopened in May and June.
- Priority access to testing being made available to any asymptomatic teacher who requests it. This will help build confidence in the safety of schools as workplaces, which will be extremely important to address the reasonable concerns of many of our members.
- The establishment of a routine surveillance system and a repeated testing and tracing regime for the education sector from the beginning of the academic year.
- Early clarification of the approach to be taken by HSE in a school in the event that a pupil or staff member tests positive for coronavirus. Our members are keen to ensure that incidences of infection in schools are taken seriously in order to break community transmission.
- Advice be given to staff and parents in relation to the voluntary wearing of face coverings.
INTO will be happy to pursue these issues at stakeholder meetings in the coming days and weeks, and we now seek assurances from you that these matters will be addressed urgently by government in the immediate future.
Irish National Teachers’ Organisation
CC: Minister Stephen Donnelly (Department of Health)