“It’s time to get our children back to school and get our teachers back in front of them”.
The INTO has assured parents, teachers and children that they plan to reopen schools as normal in August, following a whole country closure on March 12.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time on Tuesday night, INTO general secretary John Boyle said that it was an ambitious goal to reopen schools at the end of the summer but that it is “achievable” and there are 11 weeks to “plan and prepare for it”.
However, while he said that he expects primary schools to reopen at the end of August for a new academic year, he couldn't answer whether all students would be permitted to be on the premises.
“I don’t think the Department of Education and Skills has any intention to ignore public health advice," Boyle said.
"They’ve shown since the beginning of this pandemic that they’ve taken all their decisions based on that. They’ll definitely weigh up the risk versus the importance of the children having their learning and development. We are not going to be objecting to schools reopening but we have to acknowledge that the primary sector is somewhat different.
John Boyle, General Secretary of the INTO speaks to Miriam O'Callaghan about whether he thinks students will be able to fully return to school in September. #RTEPT | #Covid19 | @MiriamOCal | @johnboyle_INTO | @INTOnews pic.twitter.com/ZuKN49qX7i— RTÉ Prime Time (@RTE_PrimeTime) June 16, 2020
“The children in primary school stay in the same classroom all day, they’re overcrowded classrooms, that’s a challenge and the fact that they’re with the adults for so long in the day may be challenging. But at the same time, it’s probably easier to keep them apart from the class next door and even within the class, it may be easier.
“We’re planning and working towards a full reopening.”
Reiterating that schools were currently underfunded and overcrowded, the general secretary said that that the department is “committing to fund the cleaning, to fund whatever is necessary really, for us to return safely”.
He also added that “a lot of work is going on behind the scenes” in terms of how to reopen schools safely and in line with public health advice.
“Our members are looking forward to going back but they want support this week and next week because this is the end of the school term, a lot of the preparations for the September in the primary school sector happens in the last two weeks of June,” he said.
In the meantime, the INTO has published a number of Frequently Asked Questions on their website to assist school leaders in the interim.
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