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.”

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