Aontú Leader & Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín has condemned the current state of fear and uncertainty parents, children and teachers are left in as a result of the Minister for Education’s preference for speculation over decision making.

Tóibín: “From the outset of this pandemic, the Minister has terrified parents, children and teachers alike as he speculates on major changes without warning, and refuses to offer any clarity or answers on the big questions. First, the Leaving cert was delayed. Then the orals were cancelled. Then the Leaving cert was going ahead. All of a sudden, then the Leaving cert was cancelled and predicted grades could be used. Then the option was made for students to sit their Leaving cert should they wish. Then it emerges you have to take a gap year to do so. Then a date was to be announced. Yet we are now in June, over four months since the outbreak of Covid-19 with no date for the Leaving cert exams, no allowance for those who wish to sit their exams, and no results for those who opted for the predicted grades system.”

“Parents of children with disabilities and disability organisations lobbied the Minister for months to clarify the status of the July Provision scheme. The Minister then made a massive policy announcement that the July Provision scheme would be extended to children with Down Syndrome – a hugely welcome development. Except the Minister meant only some children with Down Syndrome. The Minister arbitrarily discriminated against some children with Down Syndrome in mainstream education.

We are a week away from July, with not enough teachers available to sustain the scheme, no guidance or knowledge of how the scheme will be administered, and as a result Insurance Companies are refusing to give employee cover to the schools. The Ministers master class in indecision is subjecting parents, children and teachers to untold and unnecessary stress.”

“That is without even getting on to the issue that there is no clarity on the return of schools in September. There are no guidelines with regards what to do with vulnerable staff and students, the wearing of PPE, School Buses, Afterschool Clubs, making schools available after hours for community groups, what to do if there is a case of Covid in a school, the cleaning regime, access by parents to the school, non-contact drop and pick up, learning supports and SNA who move from class to class and school to school, children who arrive at a school sick. And one of the biggest questions, the shortage of substitute teachers and how to maintain cover for teacher absences.