The Minister for Education has insisted Government followed public health advice in its decision to keep Leaving Cert students in school.
This afternoon, the Taoiseach confirmed that schools would remain closed for the rest of the month, due to the ongoing surge coronavirus cases.
There are two exceptions to the announcement – Leaving Cert students will attend classes three days a week, while special needs education will continue as normal.
The countries three main teaching unions have lashed out at the “rushed and reckless” plan and warned that they were not consulted before it was decided.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, the Education Minister Norma Foley said the public health advice remains that schools are safe environments.
She said the Chief Medical Officer had warned that the amount mobility that was happening around the country had to be reduced and Cabinet decided that this could be achieved while allowing Leaving Cert students to remain in school part-time.
She repeatedly failed to answer whether Dr Holohan had provided his opinion on the specifics of the Government plan – or if anyone at Cabinet had asked him to.
“I think the appropriate thing was for the Chief Medical Officer and the public health experts to give their advice on what was the appropriate move to make and that was to reduce mobility,” she said.
“I think the appropriate decision then, in terms of how that would be done, was to be made by Cabinet and indeed by the Department of Education in terms of how we would move forward in terms of particular groups.
“The public health advice was given yesterday. It was received and acted upon by Cabinet and indeed by the Department of Education and I think that is right and I think that is proper.”
Minister Foley said all of the data and research available shows that schools are safe – and noted that up until the Christmas holidays 75% of Irish had no engagement with public health.
She said this afternoon’s plan is about reducing the 1.1 million people who move about every weekday in order to keep schools open.
She also rejected the teaching unions claim that keeping Leaving Cert and special needs students in schools will cause a “logistical nightmare.”
“That is actually quite easy to manage,” she said.
“Going back to my own experience, if they are in school for example one class a day with Leaving Cert students, they then have the facility in their own classroom to continue their remote teaching in their own classroom.
“We are not prescriptive as to where the remote teaching and learning will take place. School buildings will be open and access will be available to teachers should they wish to do their teaching from a school building.”
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