We must do everything we can to ensure schools stay open – and remain a safe place for both children and their teachers

School principals must not be abandoned to cope with a surge of contact-tracing alone, according to Social Democrats Education Spokesperson Gary Gannon.

“Schools reopening in the midst of a delta surge was always going to be challenging, but adequate resources should have been put in place to support schools during this time. Instead, principals have been abandoned by the HSE and the Department of Education – with many forced to perform contact-tracing themselves as calls to the dedicated helpline go unanswered.

“Principals are not public health experts – and should not have to spend evenings and weekends calling families to alert them that children are close contacts. In some cases, principals are being forced to make decisions about whether a pod of children, or an entire class, are sent home to isolate as they have been unable to contact public health teams.

“This is not good enough. The primary role of principals and teachers is keeping children safe in school while ensuring classes can continue. The HSE and the Department of Education cannot outsource contact-tracing responsibilities to them also.

“The return of schools this month was always going to lead to a spike in cases and contact-tracing requirements – and this should have been planned for in advance. Instead, there has been chaos with unnecessary stress and alarm caused to principals, teachers and parents.

“The failure of the Department to roll out sufficient numbers of C02 monitors, before schools returned, is another example of its lax attitude to covid-mitigation measures and school safety. Meanwhile, there is still no guidance from the Department on what constitutes safe, or indeed dangerous, C02 levels.

“Children have already lost so much due to covid. We must do everything we can to ensure schools stay open – and remain a safe place for both children and their teachers. School communities cannot do this alone. They need adequate support and resources from the Department of Education and the HSE.”

8 September, 2021


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