News & Media

Minister for Education must come before Covid committee

13 August 2020

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

Labour Party Education spokesperson, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, has called for the Minister for Education to come before the Oireachtas Covid Committee to answer the many questions that remain around school reopening.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“We are now two weeks from when schools are supposed to reopen and still so many questions remain.

“Today I have written to the Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Covid-19 Response requesting that the Committee invite the Minister for Education to address the Committee as soon as possible to answer questions.

“It is clear that school leadership teams and teachers are doing everything they can to make classrooms a safe space for all students but the lack of clarity from the Minister and her Department is frustrating the situation.

“School transport operators and parents are still in the dark about school transport. What are the hygiene expectations for school buses? Will students be expected to adhere to a seating plan? Will there be a deficit of places available on school transport? The Department of Education has a responsibility to ensure that school transport runs smoothly for all students who need it.

“The Minister for Education needs to respond to the comments by the Tánaiste about the inevitability of clusters forming in schools. The language senior Government figures use is extremely important and when it comes to school reopening, parents are hanging on every word. The comments by the Tánaiste have prompted a serious amount of anxiety among parents. The Minister for Education needs to be clear now about protocol about what happens when clusters form. What role will the HSA have if any in inspecting schools?

“Minister Foley also needs to clarify who will provide PPE for schools. Labour has already called for the Government to provide reusable face masks to each household in the country. This would cost around €60 million but would be money well spent given the importance of facemasks in the fight against Covid-19. If schools are going to be required to provide facemasks, then the Minister needs to allocate additional funding to them immediately to give them enough time to obtain an adequate supply of masks.

“I hope the Minister, her officials, education stakeholders such as the INTO, ASTI, TUI and the IPPN are given the opportunity to address members of the Oireachtas Covid Committee before schools are due to return to answer the questions that parents, teachers, students and other members of our school communities have.”