20th March 2020
The Minister’s letter of, the evening, March 19th goes part way to providing an increased degree of clarity for principals and teachers. The clarification around the payment of education workers is good news and INTO has worked very hard with our sister unions to secure this. The confirmation that there will be no public examinations in this school year will remove the terrible uncertainty and concern being felt by many teachers’ principals’, parents and students. There remains work to be done to ensure students get the grades they deserve and that none are disadvantaged. INTO will work to ensure that teachers are secured from any potential negative impact should grades be disputed.
Having taken the decision to close schools the Minister has now caused further confusion amongst our members with the decision to direct teachers to provide day care provision in schools for the children of a very long list of key workers. The very broad definition of key worker is at odds with the Ministers stated objective of keeping numbers to a minimum. Whilst INTO recognises and appreciates the essential and vital work being undertaken by these workers in all our interests asking teachers to provide day care, a task they are not trained for, is at variance to the scientific and medical advice on social distancing. INTO members are advised to continue to observe the guidance on minimum distances.
Teachers cannot carry on supporting online and distance learning for their pupils whilst simultaneously providing day care for other essential workers children and managing their own familial and caring responsibilities. Principals are faced with a logistical unknown in respect to how they are to marshal their staff on Monday morning. These issues and many, many more are informing INTO’s ongoing engagement with the Department of Education and the Employers.
We have been advising members for a number of days now that those in the at-risk group or those with someone in their immediate family circle who is in the at risk group along with those displaying symptoms and pregnant members should not be attending school. This advice remains the same and is not superseded by the Ministers letter. Our advice remains the same too regarding risk assessment concerning the circumstances in which a principal or Board of Governors may be compelled to close a school.
The INTO is and will continue to engage positively with the Department of Education and the employing authorities in the interests of members and that of broader society. It is important our members are protected in so far as that is possible and we continue to do what we can to ensure this. What we will not do is walk away from this engagement and leave our members exposed. INTO will continue to communicate to members any further clarifications as the situation evolves over the coming days and weeks.
For the latest updates please refer to our dedicated COVID-19 advice page.