Politicians that are trained as teachers should step up and return to classrooms in the coming weeks as schools respond to major staff shortages.
Nearly 5,000 people have now signed an online petition calling on all TDs who are qualified as teachers to head back to school.
The petition notes that there will be teacher shortages due to of ongoing Covid illness and isolation as close contacts while there is also a “massive shortage of qualified substitutes”.
It calls on all TDS and Senators to make themselves available for teaching over the coming weeks “as they are on holidays from Dáil duties”.
On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, the mother behind the petition, Maura O’Toole, said it is time for politicians to step up and support our schools.
“I saw schools talking about the number of teachers they couldn’t get, the number of teachers that were out ill with COVID or close contacts and couldn’t teach in-person - they could have taught online obviously, if Government had seen fit to organise that - and I just thought, Government TDs in particular, but TDs across the Dáil, should step up.
“If it was good enough for the Tánaiste to step up and go into the hospital it should be good enough for the teachers.”
Ms O’Toole said her son who is currently studying for the Leaving Cert still has no certainty about what will happen with this year’s exams.
“He is not concerned,” she said. “I am.”
“Quite apart from anything else, I am a single parent. If he brings it home and gets ill, that would be a disaster. If he brings it home to me and I get ill too, our income stops.
“We also have no certainty about the Leaving Cert still, this close to the mocks.”
Also on the show, Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe said he has made himself available to local schools struggling with staff shortages since last September.
“I must stress I have only subbed on an unpaid basis,” he said. “I don’t want to deny anybody a salary and I have only also subbed on the basis that a school can’t find anybody else to work.
“I remember one occasion back in September where a local school was set to close. There was an acute staffing shortage, so I stepped in. I have been doing so and I am prepared to continue to do so.”
He said anyone who has the skillset to help out schools at the moment should do so.
“We are in a crisis situation; there is a shortage of teachers,” he said. “That will be more acute, I imagine, over the next couple of weeks.
“Every European country has returned to schools this week. We are certainly not outliers. We are very much going with expert medical advice and we are going with what the European norm is.
“The fact is a lot of teachers have come back after Christmas with COVID symptoms or diagnoses and they can’t be in classrooms so therefor, there is a need for everyone with a skillset – including retired teachers and those on career breaks.
“A lot of them are stepping up to the plate as well and overall, cumulatively, that is helping to keep schools open and keep a little bit of normality in the lives of children.”
It comes as thousands of children returned to school this morning following the Christmas break.
Teachers unions have warned that schools will face staffing issues as children return – with the Government accepting that some classes and individual schools may have to temporarily close in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, new Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) figures have shown that there were more COVID outbreaks in Irish schools in the second half of last year than in any other public place.