Schools and colleges in Leinster and Munster to remain closed for remainder of week
Minister says schools in Connacht and Ulsterwill decide individually depending on circumstances in area
Minister for Education Richard Bruton announced on Wednesday afternoon that it was taking the step in light of new weather advice which has forecast blizzard-like conditions over the coming days.
In relation to Connacht and Ulster, he said decisions on school closures will be made individually depending on the circumstances in their area.
Mr Bruton said schools have significant flexibility in relation to making up for time lost due to unforeseen closures.
Provisions set out in an official circular state that school management bodies should assess whether schools can complete the curriculum before the end of the academic year.
It advises that shortfalls can be made up by prioritising tuition over other non-tuition activities, or ensuring State exam year classes attend all classes to the end of May.
School management sources say it is unlikely that Easter holidays will be cut short to make up this time due to holiday plans made by staff and students.
Mr Bruton said any schools that require repairs should contact their insurance providers before contacting the department regarding emergency funding.
For State-owned buildings, school authorities are free to apply for funding under the department’s emergency works scheme.
School transport suspended
Met Éireann’s new red weather alert for all of Leinster and Munster on Thursday evening and Friday morning means school transport will be automatically suspended in these areas.
Until Wednesday afternoon, Mr Bruton’s advice had been that decisions over closures should be left to individual schools. This had attracted criticism by Opposition members.
Labour Party education spokesperson Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said a “hands-off approach” taken by the Department of Education in relation to school closures showed a “ stunning lack of leadership”.
“School principals are contacting me all day from all over the country wondering what they should do,” he said.
“ Schools are unsure whether they will be required to make up the days if they make a decision to close their school because of health and safety concerns.
“It is obvious that the department should make a centralised decision to close all schools in the red alert areas. This decision should be made immediately to avoid any further confusion.”
Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne TD also expressed surprise that national advice on school closures was not given by the Minister.
“I had assumed that during future red warning weather events that guidance would be issued for schools located in counties covered by a red weather alert,” he said.
“I was shocked today that, over two hours after a red warning was issued for a number of counties and after the time that some children would have to leave for school, the Minister stated that the matter was one for individual schools.
Met Éireann’s red weather alert for Leinster and Munster is on the basis of blizzard-like conditions which are likely on Thursday evening and which are set to continue into Friday morning.
The forecaster has also issued an orange alert for Connacht, Cavan and Monaghan, saying persistent snow would develop on Thursday night “and will continue into Friday. Together with strong easterly winds this may lead to snow drifts.”
A red alert is already in place until midday on Thursday for Dublin and the east coast, while an orange alert is in place for the same period for Carlow, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Wexford, Offaly, Westmeath, Cork, Tipperary and Waterford.