Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

07.59 8 Jan 2021


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Teachers would certainly consider returning to classrooms sooner than the end of January if COVID-19 case numbers decreased significantly, the ASTI says.

The union's president says even students were contacting them about the 'fear of going back to school',

It comes after the Government last night announced a U-turn on its decision to keep schools open for Leaving Cert students and special needs classes.

The move was announced after teaching unions said their members would not be going into schools on Monday.

ASTI President Ann Piggott told Newstalk Breakfast that the reaction to last night's reaction suggests people are very relieved by the Government's U-turn.

Teachers 'happy to look at' reopening schools if COVID-19 cases decrease - ASTI

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She said: “Our members have been contacting us for several days now in their droves. It got to the point when even students were contacting us about the fear of going back to school.

“I think part of what we didn’t understand was [students returning for] three days a week.

"A lot of people thought why open for a few weeks for three days, when maybe you could close for two and bring everyone back after that."

She said the union would 'certainly be happy' to look at the situation again as soon as numbers go down and people feel safer going back to work.

Leaving Cert plans

Meanwhile, Labour's education spokesperson Aodhan Ó Riordán said schools were facing a situation where many students simply wouldn't have shown up at schools even if they were open.

He observed: “We don’t blame Government for trying something out… we called last Monday for [the minister] to try to include in-class teaching for Leaving Cert students, for those with additional needs, for disadvantaged students, and indeed for the families of frontline workers.

“She came up with a proposal, but the big problem that happened this week is she didn’t speak to those who are going to have to deliver the proposal… and she announced it without the specific sign-off from NPHET.”

Deputy Ó Riordán said he agrees with party leader Alan Kelly that a decision on whether the traditional Leaving Cert can go ahead is needed by the beginning of February.

He suggested there's 'no guarantee' students will be back at school by the mid-term break, as it’s much harder to open schools than it is to close them.

Main image: File photo. Picture by: Ben Birchall/PA Archive/PA Images

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