Government figures on COVID outbreaks in schools ‘cannot be true’ given the number of students and teachers testing positive, according to the INTO.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the teacher’s union said a new survey of its members found that around 1.6.% of pupils tested positive for COVID this month.
The survey, which was answered by nearly 900 schools around the country also found that 3.6% of teachers had picked up the virus.
Meanwhile, there were 16 outbreaks associated with schools reported in the second week of November, according to the latest report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).
“The experts have been saying – and Government ministers including Minister Foley – they have been saying there have been 12 [sic] outbreaks in the last week,” he said.
“Now, they can’t know how many outbreaks there were in schools because they are not checking – they haven’t done any checks in primary schools for nearly two months.
“Our survey shows there is a major crisis. The solutions here are to put back in proper public health supports.”
Mr Boyle said the INTO continues to call for full contact tracing and close contact rules to be reinstated in primary schools.
He said the introduction of antigen testing next week is a help that is being introduced “better late than never” and called for a better focus on ventilation in the classroom.
“We are looking at solutions here and the solutions have to come from the Department of Education and public health,” he said.
“Public health has abandoned the school sector in primary and when you hear of 12 outbreaks [sic] in the last fortnight – it cannot be true if you look at our figures.
“I could name you 12 schools locally here in South Dublin where there have been outbreaks. The reason we are not hearing about this is because it's not being reported.”
He said around 9,000 students are currently absent from school because of COVID and as many as 13,000 or 14,000 could be asymptomatic and attending school.
“There was a way of finding out these things up until Sept 27th, but those supports were stripped out,” he said.
The INTO survey also found that substitute teachers were not available on nearly one-third of the days they were needed during the two-week period.
Of the 11,778 substitutable days reported some 3,693 were not covered.
Of the days that were covered 48% were filled by a registered primary teacher, 10,6% were filled by a registered teacher who is not a primary teacher and 7% were filled by someone who is not registered with the Teaching Council.
Mr Boyle said the department should send in qualified teachers who are currently working in other areas – like school inspectors and curriculum coordinators - to fill the gap
He said around 500 student teachers in their third and fourth years could also be released to schools.
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