Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

08.43 20 Jan 2021


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Education Minister Norma Foley has insisted the Government responded to all of teachers unions' concerns around the reopening of special needs schools.

She said scrapping of the plan to resume classes from tomorrow leaves Ireland an 'outlier in Europe'.

The Government last night said the decision was the result of "a lack of co-operation by key staff unions in the primary sector".

Unions, meanwhile, said the core issue was “inconsistent advice about safety in schools”.

On today's Newstalk Breakfast, Minister Foley said she fully accepts that unions had concerns around issues such as childcare, parental leave and the situation for pregnant teachers and SNAs.

However, she said the main issue they raised was around public health advice.

Foley insists Government responded to all concerns teachers' unions 'put on the table'

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She said: “The unions made clear they would act and accept public health advice. The public health advice was provided to them.

“When you want clarification on a health basis and you receive it, I do believe it’s very important you accept it from expert professionals.

“It’s important to reiterate everything they have put on the table and asked us to work through we have done."

Minister Foley said health experts such as Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn communicated to teachers that the plan to partially reopen schools was ‘acceptable and doable’.

While she acknowledged that the recent surge in cases is a moment of 'high anxiety for everyone', she believes providing education for children with special needs 'must and should be' an essential service.

She noted that children with special needs were ‘significantly disadvantaged’ during the first lockdown, and it was a ‘traumatic’ experience for many families.

Therefore, there was a need that 'particular consideration' needed be given to their needs when schools were unable to fully reopen.

Main image: File photo of Norma Foley. Picture by: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

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