18th October 2021
Support system shortfalls puts pressure on schools!
INTO Chairperson, Marie O’Shea commenting following the monthly meeting of INTO’s Northern Committee has expressed the members’ frustration at their experiences of trying to manage a coherent response to the spike in Covid-19 cases in our schools.
Ms. O’Shea said:
“The incidence of Covid-19 in the 5-19 age group is running at 43%. The INTO is aware from our membership that these numbers are manifesting in classrooms across the north as wholescale absenteeism. This is being ignored by DE and the PHA whose latest statistical update has neglected to include pupil attendance figures for schools.
The Covid-19 impact on these children and young people is twofold: firstly, it is having a disproportionately negative impact on those children slated to take GCSE, AS and “A level” examinations. Those students, some of whom will being sitting examinations in November, are going to see the Covid-19 impact in their results. The provision of support from the system as opposed to their teachers is simply unacceptable. Secondly, confidence across the system already in short supply is being further eroded as principals and teachers are of the view they have been abandoned to deal with the pandemic on their own.
Teachers, who are being struck down with Covid-19 are consistently told by the DE and PHA they are at no higher risk of infection than other professions. We at INTO find this frankly unbelievable and we challenge these two bodies to produce evidence based on current data to support their stated position. There is ample evidence, we believe, that the current substitute teacher shortage is in large part the result of an upsurge in the numbers of teachers being absent on foot of Covid-19 infections. INTO can report with confidence that schools across the north are experiencing severe difficulties in locating and employing temporary teachers.
The DE and PHA need to take a long look at themselves and assess whether they are doing the right thing for our school age population and the tens of thousands of persons who work in our schools alongside the children and young people. The teachers and school leaders have already carried out such an assessment and concluded they and those in their care are being failed. It is time for a step change from DE and PHA in how they are handling this continuing crisis.”