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Reopening plan for schools should have been released 'weeks ago', TD says

The time for the reopening plan for schools to be released was "weeks ago", according to a Social...
Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

15.26 23 Jul 2020


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Reopening plan for schools sho...

Reopening plan for schools should have been released 'weeks ago', TD says

Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

15.26 23 Jul 2020


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The time for the reopening plan for schools to be released was "weeks ago", according to a Social Democrats TD.

Jennifer Whitmore has called on the Department of Education to give details of what’s happening with schools “very, very quickly” - warning that the clock is ticking down towards the new school year.

Schools are set to reopen at the end of August, with the Government pledging reopening them is a 'priority'.

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However, opposition parties have repeatedly raised concerns about the delay in releasing the reopening plan and guidelines for schools.

Deputy Whitmore - who represents Wicklow - told Lunchtime Live that every year the Department determines the allocation of teachers, with the schools having the opportunity to appeal if they feel they do need an additional teacher.

This year, the parents at Holy Rosary primary school in Wicklow Town approached her, highlighting that the school was only going to get two teachers for 66 students in third class.

She explained: “I was surprised that when we approached the Department and the school appealed that decision, that the Department didn’t give the extra teacher that I believe they should have given.

“Now that school will just have two teachers for 66 students. Particularly in light of COVID and the need for social distancing, I think maybe they should have reassessed their criteria.

“I wrote to the Department, and asked that they would consider the appeal in light of the fact we are now in a different world… and there are also a number of children with additional needs.

“The Department wrote back and said the decision of the appeals board is final.”

She said she also put forward questions to see if the criteria around allocation of teachers had changed given the current situation - but she says it appears that isn’t the case.

Deputy Whitmore said the Táoiseach has indicated a plan is coming, but that the Government wants to ensure it’s comprehensive before releasing it.

She noted: "As a parent I know my children are wondering are they going back, will they be back with their friends in the same class… as a parent I’m wondering are they going back full-time, do I need to get childcare for my primary school children?”

“We are five weeks away from schools opening - the time for a comprehensive plan was weeks ago."

She said while parents and children need to plan, so do schools.

She observed: “Do they need extra teachers, extra SNAs? Do they have hot running water - amazingly, a lot of our schools don’t have hot running water. How are our children going to be able to wash their hands? Do they have enough desks?

“Schools can’t do anything about them, as they don’t know if the funding is coming down the road for them.”

Deputy Whitmore suggested Education Minister Norma Foley now needs to get out ‘front and centre’ in addressing the issue of schools reopening.

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

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