Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

11.43 9 Oct 2020


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The Government has insisted no decision has been made on extending this month's mid-term break for schools.

The option of a longer mid-term break to limit children's movements is among the ideas that have been raised across Europe as potential measures to try to curb rising coronavirus cases.

The Irish Independent reports that Government here has discussed the prospect of an extra week being added to the break.

Schools are currently scheduled to close from Monday 26th to Friday October 30th - meaning an extended break would continue until November 6th.

However, the Department of Education insists no decision has been made.

A Department spokesperson said: "To date the evidence demonstrates that schools have reopened safely supported by significant investment to support all infection prevention and control measures recommended by the public health authorities.

"The Irish experience to date supports the current international position that schools are low risk environments for COVID-19 and are not key drivers of transmission in the community."

The Department says coronavirus testing has been carried out at 252 schools since they reopened, with 117 cases detected 'over and above original cases'.

Proposal

Ireland Editor with the Irish Independent, Fionnan Sheahan, said the idea behind the proposal for an extended mid-term is to ensure children aren't interacting as much for two weeks.

He told The Pat Kenny Show: "It's a proposal that's being examined by a number of countries around Europe.

"It can be unrelated to any level you're in in terms of restrictions - so you could be back down to level two, or on level three, or up higher... and still close the schools."

However, Minister of State Robert Troy told The Pat Kenny Show that the report is the 'first he's heard' of the idea.

'The system is exhausted'

Aodhan Ó Ríordáin, Labour's spokesperson on education, says the proposal has merit - but it seems to have emerged without consultation with education partners.

He said: "The system is exhausted - there's a heightened sense of anxiety... the work is incredibly intense.

"While I think the topic itself deserves greater scrutiny... for it to be released in this manner, without consultation with teachers' unions or parents' reps, leaves a lot to be desired."

Teachers' union INTO said it's vital that stakeholders are consulted and 'given due notice' if there's any potential significant disruption to schools.

The union said: "There are alternatives to closure and to supporting learning remotely, such as partial opening where half of each class attends school on a rota basis.

"Having the EU’s largest classes leaves little room for distancing in primary schools and next Tuesday [Budget day] the government will have a chance to reduce our class sizes."

Main image: File photo of a classroom. Picture by: Danny Lawson/PA Archive/PA Images

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