Update: Serious safety concerns must be addressed prior to any reopening of schools

The INTO’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) has said that teachers’ grave safety concerns have not been adequately addressed by today’s public health webinar and by Government.

Following an emergency meeting, the INTO CEC calls on the Department of Education to reconsider their plan to resume in-school special education this week.

Teachers have serious concerns about the public health advice provided at today’s webinar in relation to the planned limited reopening of special education. Teachers are understandably and justifiably anxious about their own safety and that of their pupils whilst community infection levels remain very high. The Public Health Webinar, organised by the Department of Education, following an INTO call for up-to-date information, failed to allay teachers’ fears.

Having engaged intensively with the Department of Education and fellow education stakeholders, INTO’s CEC met to discuss the concerns of our members.

We will continue to engage with the Department and public health authorities in an effort to work towards a safe, phased reopening. However, up-to-date, reliable information and supports are essential if this effort is to succeed.

INTO’s CEC will meet once again tomorrow to assess the situation further.

INTO President Mary Magner said:

“I know this is the last thing teachers want to be worrying about as they exhaustively strive to support pupils remotely. We have heard the concerns of teachers in recent days and, while teachers across the country are keen to get back to the classroom, they are scared. Teachers are committed to supporting their vulnerable pupils but the safety of staff is vital.”

INTO General Secretary John Boyle said today:

Today’s webinar did not address teachers’ concerns. The Government must take responsibility for poor and untimely communication and mixed messages over the past two weeks. The failure of Minister Foley and Minister Madigan to engage in proper consultation in the last two weeks has been very damaging and it has hampered the planning for the safe reopening of schools.

We have made progress on some of our key concerns in recent days, but there is more work to be done to ensure the safety of staff, pupils and their families, including a higher prioritisation of education staff for vaccination. We will continue to be constructive and work with our colleagues in Fórsa and with the Department of Education towards the safe, orderly reopening of schools.”