• In five days time, children from junior infants up to and including 2nd class will return to school, as will Leaving Certs in secondary schools across the region.

    5th year students in secondary and all other primary school students will return 2 weeks later on 15th March, and remaining secondary school students on 12th April, after the Easter break.

    Vinnie Duffy is the INTO representative for Mayo & Sligo, and principal of Breaffy National School outside Ballina.

    Speaking with Midwest News, he said teachers and students are looking forward to getting back to the classroom next week..


  • The Department of Education Inspectorate will engage with schools on a weekly basis during Level 5 restrictions. That's according to the teacher's union the INTO.

    It's over concerns raised by parents that some schools have not as yet set up remote learning for students.

    General Secretary of the INTO, John Boyle says schools have worked as quickly as possible since receiving the latest public health guidance. In many cases school text books have only been collected by students and parents today and yesterday and he says the latest Level 5 restrictions were not anticipated when schools closed before Christmas.

  • Children with special needs will not be returning to the classroom this week after the Government was forced to abandon the plan.

    The Department of Education says the decision was down to "a lack of co-operation" from teacher unions.

    The Irish National Teachers Organisation and Forsa had earlier called on the minister to postpone the reopening, saying "efforts to reassure staff schools are safe had failed".

    Further talks between the Department and unions are expected over the coming days.


  • The impossible workload facing teaching principals in smaller primary schools was highlighted this week at the INTO conference in Galway.

    Teaching principals are a feature of many smaller schools - especially in counties in the West of Ireland - but many have reported increased stress levels due to trying to balance their teaching work with administrative duties.

    They're asking to be released from the classroom for one day per week to carry out their administrative work.

    Mayo Senator Rose Conway-Walsh says the current situation cannot continue, and the Government needs to immediately address the workload placed on teaching principals.

  • Two teachers unions have backed a motion that could lead to industrial action.

    They are protesting a change to the vaccine rollout list, which will now prioritise someone's age instead of their job.

    The votes from the INTO and the TUI means the two unions now have support for industrial action up to strikes.

    The third major teachers union, the ASTI, is due to vote on a similar motion shortly.

    The three have been angered by changes to the vaccine rollout, which will now be based solely on age.

    Education Minister Norma Foley yesterday ruled out a change to rollout plan.

    But the government now faces possible strikes unless a compromise can be found.

  • The INTO is calling on the Minister for Education to extend primary schools' Christmas holidays to the end of next week at the earliest.

    Primary schools are due to reopen on January 6.

    General Secretary of the teachers' union John Boyle said the number of confirmed cases in the schools has grown at an alarming rate with nearly 700 primary school children testing positive in the 14 days before schools shut for the holidays.

    He said keeping the schools closed would give scientists an opportunity to engage with the government.

  • The Sligo /Mayo INTO rep, Vincent  Duffy says the government’s 375 million euro  package for re-opening schools announced yesterday evening is welcome, but the time frame - of a just over a month, to deliver all that it contains, will be difficult to achieve.

    The Education Minister Norma Foley said there's no shortage of available primary school teachers to utilise as part of the plan to re-open schools.

    The plan includes money for increased substitution in case a teacher gets sick, or can't work because they're in a vulnerable category.

    There's also money in the package to recruit more than 1,000 extra secondary school teachers to help reduce class sizes.

    The Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) claims it may not be possible to find the extra 1,000 extra teaching staff promised. President Martin Marjoram says the department already had trouble in finding enough teachers, before the pandemic.

    While John Boyle the General Secretary of the INTO is concerned the number of additional teachers for primary schools won't be enough in some areas.

    Some students may be taught in parish halls or GAA facilities when they return to school, if their school buildings cannot accommodate adequate social distancing.

    Children from junior infants to second class won't have to observe social distancing but all others will have to be spaced a metre from their classmates.

    75 million euro is being allocated to allow schools adapt their classrooms.

    INTO rep in this region Vincent Duffy, is the principal of Breaffy NS, outside Ballina and he gave his reaction to the multi million euro package to Midwest News this lunchtime.

  • Health Minister Simon Harris has spoken about the possibility of reopening schools, even for just one day a week.

    But he says it can't happen until it's cleared by doctors.

    The INTO says primary schools may have to have a morning and an afternoon session when they do reopen

    Latest figures show 610 people have now died from Covid 19, while there are more than 15 thousand confirmed cases.

    General secretary of the INTO John Boyle says the school day may have to be staggered because of class sizes.

  • The INTO is warning schools won't return on March 15th if phased reopening causes a spike in Covid-19 cases.

    The next stage of reopening starts tomorrow, with Leaving Cert students and the first four years of primary school going back.

    Fifth years and all other primary school classes will return from March 15th, with all outstanding classes going back after the Easter break.

    The Irish National Teachers' Organisation says they'll be keeping a close eye on virus cases in schools.

    General Secretary John Boyle is appealing to parents not to send in children who feel unwell.

  • The Tanaiste says he's confident a full reopening of schools in September is possible.

    Teaching Unions are concerned that fully reopening schools may be made difficult by social distancing requirements.

    New guidance from the Department of Education suggests primary school students from third class up to 6th, and all secondary school students will have to socially distance in class.

    Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said this evening that the full reopening of schools will depend on the behaviour of the Covid-19 virus. .

    However, the INTO has warned that larger classes in primary schools may need to be split and additional teachers hired in order to adhere to social distancing.

    Vincent Duffy, Principal of Breaffy National School in Ballina is the INTO representative for Mayo and Sligo.

    He told Midwest News that the new guidelines on social distancing will pose logistical difficulties for schools with larger class sizes - particularly where there are over 30 pupils in a class.

  • The Mayo-Sligo branch of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation is calling on general election candidates across the region to address the issues facing primary schools.

    They are holding a hustings event in Castlebar on Monday evening in the Ellison Hotel from 7-8pm to discuss teacher to student ratios, principal workloads and pay parity for new entrants.

    They are advocating for the student to teacher ratio to be reduced from 30 to 1, to 20 to 1 by the next government.

    Executive Representative for the Mayo Sligo branch of the INTO Vinnie Duffy says he hopes the next government will prioritise the issues in education.

  • Additional funding for the cleaning of primary schools will be provided by the dept ahead of the re-opening of schools in September. That was confirmed yesterday by the General Secretary of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) John Boyle.

    Many primary schools up until now, would have been cleaned maybe once or twice a week, that will have to be significantly ramped up as a result of Covid 19.

    However, principals, teachers, boards of management and parent councils are all busy getting ready for a Sept 1st reopening.

    It’s a busy and ever changing environment, but Ballina based principal Vincent Duffy, the Mayo/ Sligo District representative of the INTO says everyone involved is keen to get children back to learning and socialising.

    Vincent is the principal of Breafy NS, outside Ballina he’s been telling Midwest News today about the preparations now underway to ensure that it happens and at the same time that all health and safety advice is adhered to.

  • The INTO, representing primary teachers, has set out five clear requirements for schools to operate safely as community infection rates rise and the number of positive tests in schools increase.

    The INTO is growing increasingly concerned that public health precautions for teachers are inadequate and in a statement today say they are alarmed at comments made by Dr Henry of NPHET, who said it appears widespread community transmission is a threat to schools.

    INTO General Secretary John Boyle says many primary teachers have underlying health conditions or have family members whose health is at risk from Covid-19. The threat associated with rising levels of infection in communities is leading to apprehension and anxiety among school staff nationwide, especially in counties where level 4 restrictions already apply.

    He says it remains imperative that a public health review takes place and that all education stakeholders are immediately convened to explore what this means for our schools. INTO insists that it be represented on any government steering group involved in pandemic planning in primary and special schools.

    The desire of teachers to keep schools open must be met with a firm commitment to keep schools safe, Mr Boyle insists.

    “Despite our best efforts, government has failed to deliver a fit for purpose, fast-tracked, sector-specific testing and tracing system in the seven weeks since schools reopened. This has resulted in principal teachers regularly having to initiate out of hours contact with families and staff members when they have been notified of positive tests. This situation is simply untenable. If our primary and special schools are to fully reopen after mid-term break and operate safely next month, government must ensure that the necessary protective measures and protocols are put in place within the next fortnight.”

  • There won't be a 'one size fits all' solution for social distancing in schools according to the INTO.

    The union has also raised concerns about funding for extra staff should they be needed when schools re-open.

    It has been reacting to guidelines issued by the Department of Education for the re-opening of schools.

    Social distancing won't be essential for children in the first four years of schooling.

    Third class to sixth class children will be asked to keep one metre apart.

    While secondary pupils are asked to keep two metres apart, if that's not possible one metre will be sufficient.


    The three major teaching unions have voted in favour of a motion for industrial action, up to strikes.

    The ASTI, the INTO and TUI all backed the proposal today.

    They say teachers should be prioritised for vaccines, as they interact with dozens of children every day.

    But Education Minister Norma Foley says Covid-19 transmission in schools is low.