Scientific advice and reopening schools

 

Sir, – In October, when the Government rejected Nphet’s initial recommendation to move to Level 5, case numbers went on to treble.

In November, when the Government rejected Nphet’s recommendations on reopening hospitality, cases went on to reach record numbers.

We’ve now learned that the Government did not seek Nphet’s advice on sending Leaving Certificate students to school for three days a week.

The Government’s increasing sidelining of its own public health advisers during the pandemic is something that needs to change urgently. – Yours, etc,

GARY BARRETT,

Loughglynn,

Co Roscommon.

Sir, – If it is deemed safe to allow sixth-year students to attend school for three days per week, then is it not by the same logic safe to permit employees to return to work for three days per week? Are we to understand that schools are safe for three days per week only, but not for five?

This illogical decision appears to be more about avoiding another “predictive grades” debacle than following any scientific advice. – Yours, etc,

CONOR

O’DRISCOLL,

Ballycullen,

Dublin 24.

Sir, – I’m reluctant to criticise the Government’s handling of the pandemic which, by and large, has been competent, but in view of a new highly transmissible variant of Covid-19, it does not seem wise to open schools for even limited numbers of students until the figures for Covid cases show a convincing downward trend. – Yours, etc,

PATRICK

O’DONOGHUE,

Maynooth,

Co Kildare.

Sir, – I write to you first of all to declare my commitment to the wonderful children with additional needs which I have taught for almost 30 years now.

They are smart, engaging and funny and have sustained my interest and belief in them and in my career.

I missed my face-to-face sessions with my class last spring during the lockdown but every day myself and my colleagues held Zoom calls to support their needs. It was not ideal but happily our children continued to make progress through this medium.

In September, we were delighted to back to face-to-face teaching, nervous but excited. We felt supported by the Government, which provided us with funding for protective measures.

We and our children did the drills, we sanitised, we sat in freezing classrooms with open windows, we taught through masks and visors, and our children engaged with us against all the odds! It was worth it as we came through virtually unscathed, as numbers in the community were relatively low.

Now it is completely different. The numbers are rampant in the community and testing and tracing cannot keep up. This means that we really do not have any idea of who is carrying this virus unless they have symptoms, and children may not present with symptoms.

Given all this, it is not surprising that I and my colleagues would feel nervous about heading back into the classroom next Monday.

My main upset, however, is not because of the risk, be that as it may, but because of the cavalier attitude of Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Education Norma Foley. The narrative they spin that schools are safe places, while refusing to acknowledge that due to the new figures this may not be the case, or to empathise in any way with teachers who are scared of the new conditions, or indeed with parents who are terrified to send their children to school, is depressing and demotivating. These two politicians have placed their reputations above our safety as teachers.

So we head into the fray next Monday. I look forward to meeting my class, as I always do, but I cannot help feeling like a pawn in a very scary game , but I hope I live to tell the tale. – Yours, etc,

PATTI ROCHE,

Dublin 2.