GEMMA BROLLY: January Return to Schools in Absolute Shambles
Aontú Spokeperson for Education Gemma Brolly condemns the refusal to listen and lack of forward planning by the Minister of Education and her Department, leaving Schools, parents and children in limbo yet again as they return to manage and educate with an outlook of skeleton staff and no air filter units in winter temperatures.
Brolly stated “With almost two years of experience dealing with COVID those in the school environment should surely know best what is required to manage the situation as far as possible, should be trusted and their plans and ideas taken on board by those with the authority to implement such plans.
We have continuously witnessed the Department of Education and it’s Minister not only disregard pleas and calls from schools staff, unions and parents and yet here we are again, new year, reasonably new minister, same story.”
Schools have followed “guidance” as have parents and children with testing and isolation periods. When the Department finally acted on desperate pleas from Principals after months, for assistance with ‘Track and Trace’ they were presented with the PHA who turned the tables and appeared to operate a system where neither school nor parent were informed of close contacts/risk of transmission. Until of course, we reached crisis point shortly before the Christmas holidays and schools began to receive more steadfast assistance and guidance” explained Brolly.
“Schools have often been instructed for many months to ensure rooms are well ventilated, keeping doors and windows open where necessary. Unions have been calling for air filters for months. Common sense would suggest it would be extremely foolish to have children and staff sitting in classes, expecting them to work and learn whilst enduring low to freezing temperatures in winter. Yet in the last few months of the year schools are provided with CO2 monitors which are green when CO2 levels are safe and change to orange and red when increased ventilation is required. So we now have a tool to measure the levels but absolutely nothing to improve this situation safely and efficiently. Regardless of continuous requests from Unions and the Education Committee. The Minister has notified the public through the media, not directly to actual schools (as appears to also be common practice) that air filtration units are “moving forward with delivery of 7,000 units,” yet staff and children are returning to school currently in low to freezing temperatures. Where is the forward and timely planning?” Brolly questions.
“Schools have been and will continue to be stretched beyond their means, from teachers and assistants right through to cleaning and kitchen staff, with what we have in place at the moment, if they are not absent due to COVID they will be absent due to colds and chest infections. The Department have had plenty of warning and advice from those who know best. When will they learn?
Education Spokesperson for Aontú, Ms. Brolly continued “We, along with various Unions, demand the Minister of Education and her department issue detailed guidance to schools and parents as a matter of urgency (considering many schools returned today) detailing the likelihood of absent staff and explaining the extreme difficulty in obtaining cover and therefore plans for the consequences of this.
Aontú also demand that the Department of Education in conjunction with PHA issue to schools thorough guidance in how they have and will identify close contacts and communicate with them/their parents.”
“Finally,” concludes Brolly, ”we strongly urge the Department to learn from past mistakes and to engage fully with Unions and Schools. This is the only way to prevent further fallout and not simply begin to react when reaching crisis point.”