Schools ‘working towards’ reopening in late-August

Restart to classes in 11 weeks is ‘achievable’, says head of primary teachers’ union

A lot of the preparations for  September in the primary school sector ‘happens in the last two weeks of June’. File image: Leon Neal/Getty Images

A lot of the preparations for September in the primary school sector ‘happens in the last two weeks of June’. File image: Leon Neal/Getty Images

 

Primary school teachers are “planning and working towards” a reopening of schools at the end of August, the general secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) has said.

John Boyle said the closure of schools on March 12th was the right decision but that “it’s time to get our children back to school and get our teachers back in front of them”.

Mr Boyle told RTÉ’s Prime Time on Tuesday night that it was an ambitious goal to reopen schools at the end of the summer but that it is “achievable” and there was 11 weeks to “plan and prepare for it”.

Mr Boyle said, while he expects primary schools to reopen at the end of August, he couldn’t answer whether that would be a full reopening for students.

“I don’t think the Department [of Education and Skills] has any intention to ignore public health advice. They’ve shown since the beginning of this pandemic that they’ve taken all their decisions based on that,” Mr Boyle said.

“They’ll definitely weigh up 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.

“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.”

Mr Boyle said primary schools were currently underfunded and overcrowded but that the department is “committing to fund the cleaning, to fund whatever is necessary really, for us to return safely”. He 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.