News & Media

Government need to get their act together on school reopenings

29 May 2020

Statement by Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
Spokesperson on Education, Enterprise and Trade

- Certainty needed on teacher numbers
- Delayed reopening will have huge impact on disadvantaged students

The ongoing uncertainty and speculation from Government about school reopenings is unacceptable, said Aodhán Ó Ríordain, and the government needs to get its act together, and give parents, and wider society some certainty on the path forward.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

"Anyone hearing the Minister for Education speculate on what might happen with our schools in September would be deeply concerned at the lack of any coherent plan to reopen our education system.

"Yesterday he indicated that all children would not be able to return to school in September even if social distancing rules changed to 1m. There doesn't seem to be any plan there at all, and it is causing unnecessary worry now.

“I’m really concerned that the school system is facing mass dropouts in September of disadvantaged students, and I’ve heard that fear from many educators. I’m also worried at the failure of the Minister to halt schools losing teachers. The department is still overseeing the loss of teachers from schools despite my call to freeze staff numbers from falling.

"There are a lot of unknowns about what will happen in September. For example, do we need to hire significantly more teachers, or education assistants to reduce the numbers in classrooms, and should school management now look at sourcing more classroom space and do they need to source PPE? The list of questions is long, and the Minister has added to the confusion.

"Schools are a critical part of our society, and that uncertainty is feeding through to employers and all other economic activity. If schools are not fully reopened in September, then it will have a major knock on effect on parents ability to return to work.

"We can't have another repeat of what happened around the Leaving Cert when the situation remained in flux for far too long.

"The Minister needs to put in place a structured process now, that provides a clear roadmap to all stakeholders - parents, teachers, other education staff, even employers - so that public health advice and logistical issues around reopening can be considered and agreed.

"Many countries have already reopened their schools, so we should learn from that experience, and how we can best manage the risk of Covid-19 but balance that with the educational needs of our children.

"The Minister should look at engaging with education authorities in other countries for best practice advice; Ireland shouldn’t be the outlier when it comes to getting safe and workable measures in place for the critical reopening our schools."