News & Media

Labour calls for government action during school lockdown

11 January 2021

Statement by Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
Spokesperson on Education, Enterprise and Trade
  • Vaccinate To Educate: Priority for SEN staff.

  • Early Decision on Leaving Cert 2021.

  • Post-Covid Recovery Fund Needed.

The Labour Party Education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD has called on the Government to use the coming days to ensure we can limit the damage that the school lockdown will inevitably cause to children and young people.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

"No group in Irish society will be more affected by these Level 5 restrictions than young people and children with additional educational needs. It is clear the damage caused by the loss of eleven weeks of schooling in 2020 was acute. It is also clear that remote learning does not offer the same opportunities for Special Educational Needs (SEN) students as it does for other students.

"If we are to plot a course for SEN students to come back into the classroom we must make choices that prioritise them. The government must give strong consideration to allocating the next available round of vaccinations, if supplies allow, to SEN staff so that we can facilitate an early return to in-school learning.

"An early decision is also needed in relation to the Leaving Certificate. We cannot have a prolonged debate over whether to hold the written exams in 2021. Other jurisdictions across Europe have already made this call.

"Discussions need to be arranged with the various education partners immediately as to what their views are on the holding of the written exams this summer, taking into account the uncertainty of when in-school tuition may return. It is clear that the mental strain on the Leaving Certificate Class of 2021 is greatly concerning for students, parents and teachers. A decision in February is essential.

"The Government must also have the vision for Post-COVID education. An analysis must be undertaken to assess the damage caused by the school closures in 2020 and 2021. Disadvantaged and vulnerable children have been profoundly affected by the loss of class-time.

"The Department of Education must now prepare for a post-COVID education recovery fund that will focus on disadvantaged children. An investment in their young lives by means of radically reduced class sizes, individual tuition and further resources such as free school books are a must. The damage caused by school closures ust be addressed as soon as the opportunity arises"