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Councillor Michelle Hall and Deputy Imelda Munster - both have expressed concern that Harestown NS will lose a teacher resulting in an unacceptably high pupil/teacher ratio.

Parents worried about children’s health during pandemic as loss of teachers leads to increased class sizes

Minister for Education Norma Foley has felt the wrath of two Drogheda public representatives in recent days over the potential loss of teaching staff in several local schools.

Deputy Imelda Munster raised the issue after concerns were that several schools in Louth would be losing teachers as a result of changes in enrolment numbers for the coming academic year.

“I have received correspondence from parents at St. Patrick’s National School, Harestown, Monasterboice and the  Rampark National School in Jenkinstown, Dundalk  who are very concerned that their schools are due to lose teaching positions ahead of the new school term.

“In St Patrick's NS in Harestown one teaching position will be lost, which will result in mixed level classes of up to 31 children. Parents have said that this will make physical distancing impossible. This teaching post must be reinstated.

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“In Rampark NS, two teaching positions have been lost since last September. The school is six pupils short of retaining both teaching positions. This has left the school in a position where the pupil to teacher ratio in classrooms from first class up to sixth class is 32:1

“Both of these schools will now be operating well above the recommended pupil/ teacher ratio of 26:1. This is too high in normal circumstances, but it is completely unacceptable in the midst of a pandemic where physical distancing is central to ensuring the safety of children and staff.

Termonfeckin Councillor Michelle Hall also wrote to the Minister to express her “utmost disappointment” that the Department of Education and Skills has reduced the teaching staff at Harestown N.S. at the most dangerous and life-threatening time of all our lives, during a global pandemic.

“… you as Minister for Education, have not only put lives at risk by not recommending or supplying face coverings for all pupils and staff members in education, but Minister, you have done nothing to reduce class sizes to safe levels for physical distancing. As Minister, you have now increased class sizes by not putting a temporary freeze on schools losing a teacher due to last year’s enrolment numbers” she wrote to Ms Foley.

“In Harestown NS, this lack of foresight, will result in mixed classes from Senior Infants up to 3rd Class. There will be an additional 31 children spread among the classes, increasing some classroom numbers by 10 children! This is wholly unacceptable for the 91 pupils attending this primary school.

Councillor Hall added that parents are now having to think twice about whether to allow their children to return to Harestown NS, when they should be excited about getting their children back to education, and feeling secure that their health and well-being are at the centre of the Government’s plans.

The World Health Organisation recommends social distancing in schools and feel that “maintaining safe school operations or reopening schools after a closure requires many considerations but, if done well, can promote public health”. Dail Eireann, unfortunately, has decided not to do their utmost to promote health in Irish primary schools.

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