Schools and the pandemic


Sir,– Many questions are being asked about the re-escalation of Covid control measures, often with an implication of local incompetence, and in tones of “Have we learned nothing?”. In truth, very few countries can boast of real success, and many of the better performers have done well through draconian population controls or the luck of geographical isolation, neither of which can realistically apply here. There are no solutions, merely unappetising trade-offs.

On one critical point we have learned a lesson, though.

The clarity about keeping schools open is valuable to many of the vulnerable in our society.

In the first wave, enormous disruption in hospital rostering was generated by the absence of childcare. This immediately, and at a time of unprecedented need, meant that in the many families where both parents work in healthcare, their work hours could never overlap. This made hospitals planning more difficult, clearly, and since many had to take leave, reduced staff availability at a time of great pressure.

At least as importantly, education is the quintessential “once in a lifetime opportunity”, and avoiding its disruption is a major priority, even in the toughest of times.

Thus I would commend Nphet and the Government on taking this firm position, protecting children’s welfare and bolstering availability of healthcare staff. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – As reported by you on October 21st, a school with seven confirmed cases which decided to close was overruled by the Department of Education and told to reopen (“Kerry secondary school reopens after department order”, News, October 22nd).

This leads to inaccurate data as we cannot know how many asymptomatic cases are in the school without testing everyone.

In one meat factory there was one confirmed case, but when it closed and everyone was tested, 80 cases were discovered.

Why are we ignoring the obvious? So I ask again can someone explain why there are different rules for businesses than there are for schools? Are we not all in this together? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 12.

Sir, – It is, in many ways, laudable that schools will remain open during the forthcoming lockdown – students will be able to avail of formative assessment, summative assessment, standardised tests and normative tests.

Indeed, and no doubt with the safety of all students, teachers, their families, grandparents, elderly relatives in nursing homes and the wider community in mind, the only form of test not available at school at the moment is a Covid test.

If Covid testing of schools were to take place (as it does in many other countries) the result might be that somebody, somewhere along the line has made an error. In and of itself, not a big deal – after all, as I often tell my students, if we don’t make mistakes, we don’t learn. Much better than burying your head in the lockdown sand. – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.