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Covid-19 'assistants' needed in schools when they return, say principals

The NAPD has also called for a financial package to ensure adequate levels of cleaning in schools.

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COVID-19 ASSISTANTS SHOULD be appointed in post-primary schools to help teachers when schools return later this year, the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) has said. 

In a submission to the Oireachtas Covid-19 Committee, NAPD President Alan Mongey also said a financial package for schools is needed to ensure adequate levels of cleaning and caretaker staff can be employed. 

The NAPD said teachers need “immediate clarity” in relation to curriculum and assessment and has called for greater supports for the coming year. “The workload for school leaders is already acknowledged as being a significant issue,” said Mongey, in an opening statement. 

“Each school requires the appointment or reallocation of a member of staff to act as a Covid-19 Assistant,” he said. 

“School leaders need this support to ensure that their core focus is on ensuring quality teaching and learning.”

Mongey said the NAPD wants to see the full return of all students to school in late August-September “provided it is safe, practical and possible to do so for students, all school staff and school leaders.”

He said post-primary schools varied from 100 pupils to more than 1,500. Each had its own unique factors which would affect what a return to school may look like.

“A one size fits all solution to school reopening will not work,” said Mongey. 

“Blended learning for post-primary education will form part of our future practice,” he added. 

“There must be clarity, however, as to what we mean by blended learning and what are the expectations of schools in this regard. There must be clear guidance produced by the Department of Education & Skills to ensure equity of provision for all students.”

‘Guidance’ 

There has been growing concern, meanwhile, among trade unions about what schools will look like – and how safe they’ll be – when they return at the end of summer. 

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Deirdre McDonald, the President of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) told RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland programme  last week that teachers had not been involved in drafting the guidance, which was published by the Department of Education. 

Under the guidance, compiled by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, primary school pupils from third class up and all secondary school students will be required to maintain a distance of at least one metre between each other when schools return

Teachers will also be required to maintain at least one metre of distance between themselves and students, although the guidance recognises that there will be exceptions, such as administering first aid. 

Individual desks will need to be at least one metre apart and teachers should arrange to move from classroom to classroom to avoid students moving in groups. 

Mongey of NAPD will today tell the committee that while a “one size fits all approach” will not work, centralised support, guidance, procurement and direction “is essential to reduce the burden which will be placed on school leaders.

“It will be them alone who are tasked with leading and managing the re-opening of schools,” he said. 

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