Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon today called on the Minister for Education to ensure that appropriate mitigation measures are taken so that schools can safely remain open.

Deputy Gannon, who is the party’s spokesperson for Education, said:

“While the phased reopening of schools is something that we all wanted to see, the return to the classrooms this week will have led to mixed emotions for parents, pupils, teachers, SNAs and non-teaching staff who will need to be reassured by the Minister that everything possible is being done to ensure their safety.

“In relation to the wearing of masks for primary school children over the age of six, this is an uncomfortable conversation we need to have, but one that must to be informed by science. Interim guidelines from WHO recommends taking a risk-based approach to this matter. Any such decision must be evidence-led and take account of factors such as a child’s capacity to comply with the appropriate use of masks and availability of adult supervision.

“The issue of ventilation in schools is also important. In its report, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education recommended that air monitors/meters should be installed in all primary and post-primary schools by the end of December 2021. The Minister needs to clarify if her Department intends to act on this.

“I also have concerns about Leaving Certificate students who are living with vulnerable family members and are afraid to return to school for fear of bringing Covid-19 home with them. Will these students be able to continue online learning and be facilitated for the accredited grades?

“Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on the mental wellbeing of our young people. The impact of the pandemic won’t stop when students return to school so this is an area that must be properly resourced – the provision of 17 NEPS psychologists and 110 guidance counsellors simply isn’t enough to manage the tsunami of trauma to come.

“I have called for an independent youth taskforce to be established to assess the extent of damage to our young people and to put the necessary supports in place to ensure that there is no lost generation as a result of Covid-19.”

March 3, 2021

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