Irish National Teacher’s Organisation demands action from Government to help schools stay safe

Emma Nevin

The Irish National Teachers´ Organisation (INTO) is ¨growing increasingly concerned that public health precautions for teachers are inadequate,¨ according to a statement published on their website on October 19th.

The organisation is expressing concerns that many primary school teachers have underlying health conditions or live with someone vulnerable. According to the INTO, this is leading to “apprehension and anxiety among school staff nationwide.¨

They released the statement after the announcement of Level 5 restrictions last Wednesday.

The INTO has demanded five measures from the government to aid teachers. One measure includes the publication of the number of school staff who have tested positive for Covid-19 since September. The organisation also demanded a clear explanation distinguishing a close contact from a casual contact.

An urgent review of face coverings was requested, so pupils and staff have up-to-date information.

They are also calling for an additional suite of protective measures for primary and special schools in Level 4 areas. This means extra-curricular activities would be banned.

As well as this, no more than 15 parents or guardians can congregate outside school grounds at once. Schools would enforce a strict no-visitors policy and Government would provide funding to ensure that teachers and pupils can engage with remote learning.

The INTO General Secretary, John Boyle, criticised the current situation saying ¨the government has failed to deliver on testing and tracing.¨

“This has resulted in principal teachers regularly having to initiate out-of-hours contact with families and staff members when they have been notified of positive tests,¨ he said.

Co. Donegal primary school teacher, Alison Pasquier, who has 29 years experience in the sector said that when it comes to testing, schools should be prioritised.  However, she insisted that schools should remain open to “safeguard the physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development of children.”

¨The students told me that they would much prefer to be at school, and so would I, as their teacher,¨ Pasquier said.

“We strive to do the best we can under challenging circumstances. Long may our schools remain open” she concluded.

Emma Nevin

Image Credit: Milltown Secondary School