School principals have hit out at what they say is a 'blunt instrument' of COVID-19 inspections in primary schools.
It comes as school inspectors are to be asked by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to go out to schools to ensure compliance with regulations.
Damien White is president of the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN).
He told Newstalk Breakfast: "This is probably the straw that has broken the camel's back."
"Principals are unhappy because it does put extra pressure that they have another person to deal with, and another issue to deal with, on top of the literally hundreds of issues that they are currently dealing with.
"Everyone needs oversight and our profession needs oversight as much as anybody else, the problem is that principals at the moment are under savage pressure.
"I think there were ways and means of doing it that didn't involve the kind of blunt instrument that it is now becoming.
"With all due respect, I'd be one of those principals that love to see an inspector coming in because I can chart to them about what the issues are and so on."
"But the whole notion of trying to catch people doing wrong, or catch people out as such, everybody has put in such an effort to get to this point."
He added: "We're not trying to avoid any kind of inspection, what we are saying is the instrument could be different.
"It is putting time pressure on principals who are absolutely stretched beyond belief at the moment.
"I think that there is probably a checklist which could be sent out to lead worker representatives, to boards of management, chairpersons, to the principal that between them they could look at all the areas, see are we compliant.
"It's not just self-regulation because you send it back and you have to stand over what you sign.
"We are interested in maintaining our own health, we're interested in maintaining our own families health, we're interested in maintaining the health of the children, the staff and those that they go home to every day".
"If it's the HSA's work, then it should be the HSA: the relationship with school inspectors is a different relationship.
"I'm just afraid of what this might do in terms of the relationship between school inspectors and school principals, school leaders.
"We could do with the support from the principals in so many other ways.
"There are many, many cases where principals are trying to get in touch with the HSE for advice out-of-hours and so on - principals would need a lot of support and guidance around that".
"We feel that the inspectors, who are so versed in schools and the concerns of schools, would be better employed supporting schools in that way".