Sam Boal/

Teachers call for clarity on position of schools ahead of new restrictions

Briefing ministers yesterday, the Health team said that “children were safer in schools”.

THE TEACHERS’ UNION of Ireland is calling on the Department of Education to address issues raised by teachers around health and safety concerns.

The union is looking to engage with the department on what a heightening of Covid-19 restrictions would mean for schools as new restrictions are expected to be imposed in the coming days.

Concerns highlighted by the union include underfunding, ventilation and heating, and the need to audit schools to ensure they have the resources to follow public health advice.

It is said that the potential of stricter restrictions has been a source of significant stress for teachers.

TUI General Secretary Michael Gillespie said that the “number of confirmed Covid-19 cases has spiralled in recent weeks and as a result the potential risk to school staff and students must be re-assessed”.

“We have been frustrated by our efforts to have our concerns addressed by the Department,” Gillespie said.

“TUI has already sought detailed clarification on why it could be safe for schools to remain open at Level 5 if the rest of society is effectively locked down,” he said.

“We will insist on consistency, clarity and certainty for our members. We have stated at all times that we will be guided by the public health advice, but a detailed rationale based on the most up-to-date evidence is a necessity.”

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has recommended, for the second time in two weeks, that the government moves Ireland to Level 5 restrictions.

Under Level 5, most social activities would be stopped or significantly limited.

However, the restrictions framework does not outline what will happen to schools, creches and colleges if the country moves to Level 5.

Instead, it stipulates that recommendations would be “based on situation and evidence at time”.

The three coalition party leaders, along with the Ministers for Health, Finance, and Public Expenditure, met yesterday to discuss whether Ireland should adopt Level 5 restrictions following NPHET’s recommendation.

The politicians heard presentations from senior members of the NPHET team on the current Covid-19 situation in Ireland.

A statement from the Government Press Office said that the “Health team briefed Ministers that children were safer in schools, transmission rates are low, and that the continued opening of schools is very important to the development and wellbeing of children and young people”.

Cabinet is due to meet tomorrow to make a decision on new restrictions, with expectations that restrictions somewhere between Level 4 and Level 5 will be agreed on.

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