'I don't see how schools can go back' - Teacher pours cold water on re-opening plans


Jack Quann
Jack Quann

14.18 4 Jan 2021


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A Limerick secondary school teacher says he does not see how schools can re-open next Monday.

The Department of Education says it fully intends for schools to re-open on January 11th.

It comes as opposition parties are set to meet with Education Minister Norma Foley later on Monday.

Minister Foley has agreed to listen to opposition party concerns.

Eric is a secondary school teacher from Limerick.

He told Lunchtime Live he was fully supportive of schools re-opening in September, but that picture has since changed.

"Based on what we see now, I don't see how schools can go back - I don't see schools going back next week, nevermind in two or three weeks' time".

"We need to be told the number of what's safe: how many cases a day in the general community is deemed a safe number or an acceptable number of transmissions, and what's deemed dangerous.

"We're at thousands at the moment, that's surely dangerous".

But he said one of this main concerns is also the current Leaving Certificate students.

"I teach a practical subject, so I'm in a classroom that tools are shared, the pupils come in and out the whole time.

"The level of transmission is much higher."

He said at the start of the year, the windows were open in the classroom - but he suggested "if we go back now and all the windows are open, the lads will get sick, teachers will get sick.

"People will wonder is the sickness COVID or is it just a cold".

'Work towards re-opening'

Labour's education spokesperson, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, also thinks it unlikely students will be heading to school next week.

"I expect for at least a week for remote learning to be the reality for most children in the country.

"I expect that to be the situation, that we'll work towards an in-school re-opening on the 18th of January.

"That is my expectation, it's not what I want".

"I appreciate it's a very difficult decision for Government to make, I'm not in any way suggesting it isn't.

"Closing down schools is a big, big call."

"But if NPEHT do decide and do come to the conclusion that it has to happen, then Government has to follow that advice.

"They can't do what they did in the past and not follow the NPEHT advice cause it wasn't popular or wasn't politically expedient.

"We've had three occasions in the past where Government haven't followed the advice from NPHET - they need to follow their advice this time, if their advice is to close schools".

In a statement, the Department of Education says it believes schools are a safe place to be.

A spokesperson says the extended break until January 11th will allow members of the school community to minimise their contacts before returning to school.

Additional reporting: Kacey O'Riordan

Main image: Pencil cases and notebooks on a table in a classroom in Germany. Picture by: Monika Skolimowska/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa

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