TUI admits plan for early Christmas holidays 'divisive'

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has admitted a call for early Christmas holidays to boost ...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

08.47 18 Nov 2020

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TUI admits plan for early Chri...

TUI admits plan for early Christmas holidays 'divisive'

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

08.47 18 Nov 2020

Share this article

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has admitted a call for early Christmas holidays to boost morale in schools is "divisive".

The union says "serious consideration" should be given to closing schools for the Christmas break from Friday December 18th, rather than Tuesday December 22nd.

It says the once-off measure would be a "positive signal" of the department’s intention to protect the wellbeing of all in the school community.


It also says it would also allow a longer lead-in time for students and teachers to restrict movements before meeting elderly or vulnerable relatives at Christmas, if public health advice allows.

TUI General-Secretary Michael Gillespie told Newstalk Breakfast the issue has split opinion.

"This has been an unprecedented first term - teachers are fatigued, tired - and so are students.

"They're in school every day wearing masks, which heightens the fatigue and the intensity.

"But the second and most important reason I think people are looking for is they're telling us that Christmas is a family time, they want to meet their grandparents.

"The idea being that if they finish on the Friday, they gain not just the Monday and the Tuesday but the Saturday and Sunday in terms of self-isolating."

'No headcount on this'

Host Ciara Kelly suggested an extra few days of school holidays will not change medical guidance on visiting older people.

On this, Mr Gillespie said: "People are saying that if they isolate for seven days, they'll be more comfortable visiting close family friends - that's what they're saying to us.

"What we're also being told is that students aren't going to be coming in - that students and their parents have already made that decision, that they're not going to be in school after the Friday."

"We're talking about the Monday and the Tuesday, we're not missing a huge amount of school here.

"And it's because the work has been so intense and they're so tired.

"And I agree this is divisive - there is two different groups of opinions on this, both sides have equally valid reasons".

"We're just representing what some of our members [want] - we've no headcount on this."

Mr Gillespie added that there has been "no vote" on the issue from members, but they are calling for it to be considered.

It comes as the Department of Education said it had no plans to extend the school holidays.

The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) also suggested an extended break could allow children to visit their grandparents in a safer manner over Christmas.

ASTI President Anne Piggott told Pat Kenny the plan could allow children and grandparents to meet up in a safer way.

“The argument put forward is that schools would close on the 18th and it is only one-and-a-half school days off,” she said.

“The big argument is the medical argument. There are grandparents and parents around this country who want to see extended family over Christmas.

“If children finish school earlier, it would actually mean that people can be safer.

“They wouldn’t be gathering with hundreds of others in a closed setting. If they were to exhibit symptoms, they would come before Christmas Day so people could actually feel safe in knowing that they could spend time with their grandchildren who might not be sick; who might not be carrying the virus.

“That would be the main medical argument.”

Main image: 27 March 2019, Berlin: School satchels hang on the school desks in a classroom of a primary school. Photo: Monika Skolimowska/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa

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Christmas Holidays Michael Gillespie Newstalk Breakfast School Holidays TUI General-Secretary

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