News & Media

New Education Minister has failed her first test, safe return of schools impossible without a financial package – Ó Ríordáin

1 July 2020

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

The New Education Minister has failed her first test according to Labour Education Spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and the safe return of all pupils to school will be impossible unless the Department announce a financial package to allow schools to prepare for the return of large numbers of students to school.

Ó Ríordáin was speaking after the Department of Education published its official guidance for schools returning at the end of August.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“This is yet again an unhelpful statement from the new Minister and the Department as there is no reference to an accompanying financial package or a guarantee that staffing levels will be maintained or increased in schools, if necessary.

“I have consistently been calling for the Department to commit to frontloading the cost of additional resources to schools to aid them in reopening. This statement offers no clarity if schools need to reconfigure classrooms or plan for extra sanitation measures and more importantly schools should not be losing teachers when there is a clear need for smaller classes.

“Students may also end up not attending school for the full week under the official guidelines that involve a combination of classroom and blended learning which is legally questionable under the 1998 Education Act.

“If the Minister envisages refusing enrolled pupils’ access to school then she needs to make regulations under Section 25 of the 1998 Act which states that it can only be done ‘following consultation with patrons, national associations of parents, recognised school management organisations & recognised trade unions….’

Deputy Ó Ríordáin continued:

“This is the latest in a line of unhelpful statements from the Department and provides no clarity to parents, teachers, school management and students. If the new Minister wants schools to return in the Autumn as she has publicly stated, then she needs to put in a place a realistic plan frontloaded by capital measures to allow it to happen safely.