Cllr Ronan Moore, Social Democrats, has called on the government and Department of Education and Skills to urgently publish guidelines that schools would need to adhere to in order to reopen next September. In doing so he has voiced his concern that if such protocols are not developed soon then we risk having a repeat of the Leaving Cert fiasco.
Cllr Moore, who is also a second-level teacher said:
“It is clear that the Department of Education and Skills have struggled in dealing with several aspects of the pandemic thus far. First there was the decision to cancel the Junior Cert with what appeared to be little discussion with any of the key stakeholders. Then last week, after weeks of mixed and weak messaging the Leaving Cert was abandoned, with predictive grades taking its place, an approach previously dismissed. Now, we are moving into what comes next for schools and I believe there is a real danger that whatever chance schools have in reopening this Autumn will be lost because they have not been given enough time to prepare.”
“Last weekend protocols were published outlining the rules businesses must adhere to when re-opening following Covid-19 closures. However, when it comes to schools Minister McHugh has only said he has set up an advisory group to examine the issue. This simply isn’t good enough. If businesses that are wide and varied in their nature are able to receive guidance then so to should schools.
“This guidance should be led by the best medical evidence we have to date along with a reasonably conservative estimate as to the scale of Covid by September. This will at least give schools the chance to explore opportunities for repurposing halls, locker-rooms, canteens or gyms to ensure social-distancing. It will give them time to consider how they can limit student movement by having students remain in class and have subject teachers move. Or whether staggered break-times are possible and how all this affects time-tabling; preparation of which for second-level schools is usually already begun at this stage. And to explore what role IT can play in ensuring that schools can again begin operating.”
Cllr Moore, concluded:
“Schools are remarkably robust and adaptable. With often limited resources they have learned to get by over the years and yet still provide an exceptionally high quality of learning to their students. But they need to be informed as to what lies ahead. And schools at all levels of learning are varied, so time is needed so each school can understand how Covid-19 requirements will affect them so they can make the requisite changes and call upon whatever support they need to help them do this. The longer they wait, the more likely that come September, even if schools can open, they will not be in a position to because they are not ready. And once again it will be our young people who will bear the cost of this”.
12th May 2020