Deputy Ged Nash.
Drogheda’s Labour Party TD Ged Nash has criticised the government decision to reopen schools for leaving cert students on Monday which, he says, was taken without proper consultation with health officials.
Following consultations with students, teachers, principals and other education sector staff this week, Deputy Nash has called on Education Minister Norma Foley to reverse her decision.
“Since this issue first came back on the agenda, the Labour Party collectively and through our Education spokesperson Aodhan O’Riordain TD, has consistently called for a more nuanced approach to blanket school closures” deputy Nash said, adding: “We are naturally and particularly concerned about the impact that school closure has on disadvantaged children, students with additional needs and the families of frontline workers.
“The plight of the Leaving Cert class of 2021 is of particular concern to us. They lost 11 weeks of in-school tuition at the end of the last academic year and now face a prolonged period out of class again. We had called for an imaginative approach to supporting those students with agreement from all sectors and with the advice of NPHET.
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“However, the announcement of the approach yesterday by the Minister came without proper consultation with the teachers' unions and, extraordinarily, NPHET.
“At a meeting last night our party leader Alan Kelly asked the Chief Medical Officer as to whether he had been consulted on the plan to bring 6th year students back on Monday. The CMO said no. We wrote to Dr. Holohan on Monday to specifically request that a risk assessment be carried out in an advance of any decision being taken by government.
Deputy Nash said that it is not acceptable that such an approach was taken with the very workers who have kept our schools open since August and September.
“We cannot expect these workers and students to attend school on Monday without the specific recommendation from NPHET that it is safe to do so” he added.
“It is now hard to see how this proposal from government can survive. In the event of prolonged school closures it also puts the question of the holding of the written Leaving Cert exam into question.
“This is not something any of us wanted to countenance because of the handling of the graded system last year. We need a decision on the holding on the Leaving Cert as early as possible so that we don't add to the considerable stress and pressure that students have been experiencing up to this point.
“We also need a clear plan for vaccinations of all school workers. Such a plan would be an indication of respect from government that these workers deserve.”
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