Social Democrats TD for Cork South West and spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Holly Cairns, has welcomed the publication of health guidelines for the safe resumption of on-campus activity in third level institutions but said further clarification was needed from the Government in some areas.

Holly said:

“The publication of the Implementation Guidelines for Public Health Measures in Higher Education Institutes will finally provide some clarity for students as they prepare to return in September.

“It is a challenging time for everyone in trying to balance health measures with educational requirements. I am in the process of meeting the Presidents of some colleges and universities, as well as student unions, to understand the issues from their perspective.

“Even though the report states that a two-metre distance should be observed, there is a recommendation that students should wear face masks when only one-metre is possible. If masks or shields are required under such circumstances, will the €14m announced last month by Minister Harris for PPE be enough? It is important that any additional cost of providing this vital safety equipment does not fall to students or the colleges.

“We also need greater clarity on special provisions that will be made for students or staff with underlying medical conditions as campus life resumes.

“While in-person teaching and learning is important in educational and social terms, the Minister should provide more leadership on blended learning. There are courses that have practical aspects, such as nursing, engineering and culinary studies, but are there other subjects that could be run largely online.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on issues such as access to broadband or students having sufficient spaces to study. As students and staff prepare for a safe return to college life, significant challenges lie ahead – but there are also opportunities to make real, lasting improvements.”

August 6, 2020

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