School Covid-19 safety check results will not be shared with parents
Inspectors to begin visiting schools to ensure safe and sustainable reopening
A Department of Education spokesman confirmed that records arising from the visits will be made available only to the board and principal of the schools concerned and will not be published by the department. Photograph: Getty
Schools are to be subject to new Covid-19 safety checks, but the findings will not be published.
The Department of Education’s inspectorate and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) have developed an agreed plan to monitor schools’ compliance with Covid-19 rules for the safe and sustainable reopening of schools.
While the results of these checks will be shared with school leaders on the day of inspection, there is no guarantee parents or teachers will get to see the findings.
A spokesman for the department confirmed that records arising from the visits will be made available only to the board and principal of the schools concerned and will not be published by the department.
He said this was because the inspections were taking place on a trial basis and this was in line with regulations.
The spokesman added that the boards of participating schools in these initial visits may choose to make records of the visits available to their own school communities.
The move may spark controversy among some parents’ groups and teachers’ unions who have expressed concern over whether schools are in a position to ensure classrooms are safe and in compliance with safety measures.
For example, teachers’ unions have said they will not allow their members to teach in classes where there is clear evidence to show that schools are breaching Covid-19 safety guidelines.
A department spokesman said it was currently developing arrangements for visits to schools to carry out this work.
He said the visits will support school leaders and staff teams as they implement the Covid-19 response plans, “recognising the need to provide an assurance to the public that schools are a safe working and learning environment for learners and staff”.
In order to fulfil this commitment, he said the department’s inspectorate is planning to undertake a programme of visits to schools and centres for education.
“These visits will facilitate professional dialogue between the school principal and an inspector on issues surrounding the school’s plans and the measures taken to ensure its safe and sustainable reopening,” he said.
“Inspectors will monitor compliance with the department’s Covid-19 response plans for schools and will provide feedback that can be used to assist schools to identify strengths in their response plans and to highlight any aspects that may require further development.”
In the initial trial phase of visits, the spokesman said the inspectorate will be testing the draft arrangements for the visits and seeking feedback from principals and lead worker representatives about them.
The outcomes of these visits will be discussed with stakeholders and with the department and the HSA, so as to improve the approaches used, the spokesman added.
Some teachers’ unions have expressed concern that in some cases the relevant distances between teachers and pupils are not being maintained.
Some school principals have also expressed frustration that they do not have the space in their schools to ensure physical distancing rules are fully complied with.
The department, however, says it has made €375 million in funding available to schools to ensure they can operate safely, including funding for physical changes to classrooms and minor works.