Some parents are choosing not to send their children to primary school this week, as they fear their children will become infected with Covid-19.
A number of primary schools across the country have experienced reduced attendance levels today, according to Seamus Mulconry, general secretary of the Catholic Primary Schools Managements Association.
He told the Irish Times that the highest reduction level they had heard about was 30 per cent.
However, he said that they have a very small sample of schools, and the picture is diverse around the country.
Mr Mulconry said it seems that in areas where Covid case numbers are high, parents are more likely to keep their child at home.
“In Dublin west, the commuter belt, parts of the inner city, the numbers are higher. Rural schools, let’s say a school in west Clare, most pupils are in.
“We were expecting this, it’s not a surprise. The level of attendance depends on the parents’ appetite for risk.”
He said most children do like to be in school at this time of year as it is more relaxed, however, some parents have removed their children from school as a precaution ahead of Christmas. “There is a higher sense of caution this year.”
The principal of a Carlow primary school has said their attendance was at about 70 percent on Monday.
Simon Lewis, Principal at Carlow Educate Together, told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show that many parents had chosen to keep their kids at home today.
“My favourite comment on that came not from a health expert but from a parent. She basically said she wasn’t going to be sending her child to schools to be watching movies, eating popcorn and catching Covid. I think that kind of sums it up really.”
Levels of infection
John Boyle, general secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, said the union has been concerned for some time that there are a large number of pupils and teachers contracting Covid-19.
This was a result of the “scrapping” of contact tracing, risk assessments and mass PCR testing of primary school pupils in late September, according to Mr Boyle.
“By the end of the 10th week of the term, after public health abandoned primary schools, the number of pupils testing positive had almost quadrupled to an average of 1050 positive cases per day,” he said.
“The latest data from the HPSC continues to show a high level of infection amongst pupils aged between five and 12 years of age.”
An INTO survey conducted four weeks ago found that 3.6 per cent of staff in primary and special schools had tested positive for coronavirus in the fortnight after the mid-term break.
Mr Boyle said after sustained campaigning from INTO, the government rolled out antigen testing and more funding to address school ventilation.
He also said INTO wrote to Education Minister Norma Foley last week, asking for teachers to be offered booster vaccines before schools reopen for the spring term.
The union is also calling on the Government to commence a review of the first term of the primary school year, in conjunction with key primary education stakeholders.