Taoiseach pledges schools will reopen after midterm

ASTI members vote for industrial action unless concerns over Covid-19 in schools are addressed

Members of the ASTI union have voted in favour of industrial action up to and including work stoppages unless the Government  addresses a number of concerns regarding Covid-19 in schools. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Members of the ASTI union have voted in favour of industrial action up to and including work stoppages unless the Government addresses a number of concerns regarding Covid-19 in schools. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that schools will definitely open on Monday after the midterm break, despite a vote by one teachers’ union in favour of industrial action.

Speaking this morning at a press conference at Government Buildings, Mr Martin said teachers “want to be in school” and the Government would “do everything we can to ensure that industrial action does not takes place.”

Asked if he could tell parents today that schools will definitely open on Monday, Mr Martin said: “Yes, yes. We’ve nothing to say that they won’t. We’re saying they will open, of course they’ll open on Monday. We’ll continue to engage with all the partners, but they will open on Monday.”

Mr Martin said that there was a “good working relationship between all sides, and there is a determination on all sides to keep our schools open.”

He described it as a “very, very important national objective for the country.”

“There will be school teams established after the break involving both public health and education also more regular engagement between public health and the unions at a national level,” he said.

He said there would be “additional supports allocated before the end of the year for our schools”.

Members of the ASTI union have voted in favour of industrial action up to and including work stoppages unless the Government immediately addresses a number of concerns regarding Covid-19 in schools.

Teachers also supported industrial action over lower pay rates in place for more recent entrants to the profession “to be taken in conjunction with one or both of the other teacher unions”.

The union wants the Government to introduce serial testing for Covid-19 with rapid testing and turnaround times for results as well as the provision of appropriate resources for schools “to ensure continuation of learning where there are school closures/self-isolation”.

It has asked for its concerns to be addressed by tomorrow, but said strikes would be a last resort.

In response the Department of Education has insisted that schools are safe places for staff and students.

It said health precautions were proving effective in suppressing transmission of the virus in schools and that positivity rates for close contacts of detected cases of Covid-19 in secondary schools were 2.1 per cent compared to about 10 per cent in the community.

It said new school teams in HSE areas would assist schools when cases were identified and weekly meetings would be held between public health experts and unions.