USA/January 20, 2021/By: Ellen O’Riordan, Mark Hilliard, Jack Horgan-Jones/Source: https://www.irishtimes.com/
Still unclear if planned reopening of special needs schools will go ahead on Thursday.
One of the leading teachers unions has called on the Department of Education to reconsider its plans to resume in-person special education later this week.
Following an emergency meeting of its members on Monday evening, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) said “grave” safety concerns of special needs teachers have not been adequately addressed.
Earlier on Monday, about 16,500 special needs assistants (SNAs) and teachers tuned into a Department of Education webinar on Covid-19 addressed by public health officials ahead of a planned reopening of special needs schools on Thursday.
The webinar, which was broadcast live on YouTube due to overwhelming demand, was held to address some of the concerns of teachers due to return to classrooms.
In a statement, INTO said teachers remain “understandably and justifiably anxious” about their own safety and the safety of their pupils while community infection levels remain high.
“While teachers across the country are keen to get back to the classroom, they are scared, ” said the union’s president, Mary Magner. She added that teachers are committed to supporting their vulnerable pupils, but “the safety of staff is vital”.
INTO general secretary John Boyle said the Government must take responsibility for “poor and untimely communication and mixed messages over the past two weeks”.
He said that while progress had been made on some key concerns in recent days, there is more work to be done before the union can be satisfied schools can reopen safely. He said the union will continue to work with the Fórsa trade union and with the Department of Education.
In a statement, the Department of Education said Minister for Eduation Norma Foley undertook “intensive engagements” with education partners last week. It said a “shared understanding” had been reached between the minister and department officials with the education partners. The department said engagement will continue.
Docente - Investigadora Educativa.
Doctora en Cs. de la Educación, Magíster en Desarrollo Curricular y Licenciada en Relaciones Industriales.