The return to school is crucially important, but it has to happen in a planned and safe way, said local TD Claire Kerrane. She also accused the Government of “confused and haphazard” communication on the reopening of schools.
“We all want to see children back in the classroom – it is the best place for them to learn. I say that as a teacher and a public representative,” the Sinn Féin TD said.
“I hope that that can happen at the earliest possible date, but it must be in a way that is safe and sustainable.
“I note the comments of the Deputy Chief Medical Officer last Thursday. Clearly, public health advice is crucial before any return to school classrooms can be considered.”
It was vitally important that lessons were learned from January following “the government-made fiasco” on the reopening of special education, Ms Kerrane said.
“On that occasion, there was no preparation, while dates were thrown out without having an agreement or a clear plan.
“That led to false dawns and expectations being dashed with people let down when these proposals collapsed. The government cannot continue to let people down, and put dates out if they are not going to be met.”
Government communication on reopening had been confused and haphazard to say the least, she added.
“As recently as Tuesday night, the Taoiseach on national television said that the talk of March 1st was only a rumour.
“It reappeared from leaks from a parliamentary party meeting last night. This was before any public health advice was issued.
“The government keeps talking about a plan, but they have issued no such plan, instead opting for commentary and leaks. Parents, children and staff all deserve better communication and more honesty.”
She was also disappointed to hear no mention of children with additional educational needs in the mainstream returning.
“It appears as though they have been let down and forgotten again, so I hope the minister will offer them some clarification,” she said.
“There is a great deal more needed in terms of ensuring schools are made as safe as possible, including reversing the 40% cut to PPE grants, serial testing, a specific approach to schools with high number of cases and, crucially, flexibility for high-risk workers.”
With any reopening, a common-sense approach was needed regarding attendance, she continued.
“Many parents will be anxious and have some reservations around sending their children back, and will want to do so in their own time,” the TD said.
“That is not unreasonable, and I would urge the department and Túsla to recognise that and to take a sensible approach to parents who care about education but have very legitimate concerns about their health and that of their children.”