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Teachers to seek 'assurances' on safety of schools before any return to classrooms

A teachers’ union wants safety measures in schools to be reviewed in the context of the new, more transmissible strains.

TEACHERS WANT CLEAR “assurances” on how schools will be kept safe before they would feel comfortable returning, according to a teachers’ union.

Before schools reopen, teachers would be looking for safety measures preventing the spread of Covid-19 to be implemented that account for the newer, more transmissible strains.

Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) General Secretary Kieran Christie said that community transmission must remain low if schools are to return.

Speaking on RTE Radio One’s This Week, Christie said that teachers “want to be guided by the medical profession and we’d also want a series of assurances around the mitigations that would be put in place, particularly in the context of the new strain of the virus that appears to be becoming the predominant one here and whether or not those mitigations work properly within schools”.

“What we’d be looking to ensure is that the experts would assess whether or not the social distancing arrangements that worked prior to Christmas will be sufficient in the context of the new strain,” Christie said.

He said that should include considering “whether or not the level of mask-wearing within schools will be sufficient given what we’re led to believe is the increased transmissibility of the new variant”.

“This really is about building confidence and getting the appropriate assurances in place for a safe return,” he said.

The Taoiseach has indicated that schools, which are currently closed until 1 February, will likely not make a return until after next month.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Friday that there was no plans at the moment to relax restrictions and that the priority for education would be schools and classes for children with special education needs.

In secondary schools, Leaving Certificate students are waiting to hear what shape their exams or assessment will take this year.

Christie said that the Leaving Certificate exams are still a “viable” prospect and that ASTI supports the exams going ahead.

“We would favour that the ordinary Leaving Cert, to the extent that it can – possibly with some adaptations – would go ahead,” he said.

“We’re in a worse position this year for the running of calculated grades than we were last year in terms of the data available in order to do that.

“There needs to be clear thinking and careful consideration on all these matters in the coming weeks.”

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