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Leaving Cert students to move to remote learning after government u-turn

The ASTI had told its members not cooperate with government plans to bring students in for three days a week.

Image: MAXWELLS DUBLIN

Updated Jan 7th 2021, 9:05 PM

THE GOVERNMENT HAS done a u-turn on its plan for in-school teaching for Leaving Cert students from next week. 

From Monday, Leaving Cert students, including children with special needs, will revert to remote learning 5-days a week until the end of January. 

The decision comes after the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland and the Teachers Union of Ireland directed members not to co-operate with the Government’s plan for in-school teaching for Leaving Cert students three days a week. 

The unions said they had not been provided with the necessary assurances that schools are sufficiently safe for students and teachers at this time, in the context of the new variant of Covid-19 circulating in the community and the alarmingly high numbers. 

In a statement this evening, Education Minister Norma Foley confirmed that all schools will “regrettably remain closed” to students from Monday 11 January, to allow further engagement with all education stakeholders.

“It is with regret that I announce that, despite the confirmation by Public Health that schools remain safe, that children in special schools and special classes and Leaving Certificate students will not be extended in-person learning,” said Minister Foley.

“My Department has engaged with the unions and public health officials with a view to maintaining on site learning for this vulnerable group of students.

“It remains my strong belief that this period of time is crucial for the mental wellbeing of all children with special needs.

“I also felt it was the right thing to extend in-class teaching to our Leaving Certificate students who are approaching a crucial time in their exam year.

“Unfortunately I am left with no alternative but to pause the limited reopening on Monday to allow further engagement with all education stakeholders.”

Speaking to RTÉ’s Drivetime, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan had provided a detailed presentation to ministers and was “extremely clear” that schools are safe environments. 

He said the government was doing an “extremely reduced” re-opening of schools “in acknowledgement of the fact of the importance of the Leaving Cert”.  

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Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that he respected the Government’s decision regarding Leaving Cert students attending for three days a week.

He said the important thing was that the mass mobilisation associated with schools reopening fully would have been avoided.

He said: “The decision that the Government made would have had the effect of substantially reducing the quantum of activity that would be associated with education.”

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said that Minister Foley must go back to the drawing board and “work out a better plan for the tuition of Leaving Cert students”. 

“This needs to be truly collaborative, involving unions, parents, students, management bodies and opposition. The government cannot try to bounce people again.”

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Adam Daly

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