A leading teaching union has demanded an answer as to why nursery schools and special schools in Northern Ireland are not being afforded the same safety approach in line with rest of the education sector.
Special and nursery schools returned as normal on Monday morning, while primary school children moved immediately to remote learning and those in secondary schools are now continuing their education under revised safety measures as the number of Covid cases in Northern Ireland continues to rise daily.
Chair of the Northern Committee of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, Caroline McCarthy, said the lack of forward planning has left teachers feeling unprotected.
“The chaotic approach of the minister to the management of the pandemic at a system level could be easily averted by real steps to improve safety such as informed and timely communication with the workforce he is depending on,” she said.
“Special school and nursery school teaching and non-teaching staff have been ordered back into a school environment that the Minister himself has stated needed additional safety mitigations.”
She said the Minister had failed to support their needs.
“The only additional mitigation he has mentioned, compulsory face coverings in post primary schools, does not apply to either of these settings. The Minister has failed to show them any level of additional support,” she said.
“All staff in school are entitled to the protections necessary to keep them and the children in their classroom safe. The obligation to provide these protections rests with Minister Weir, Boards of Governors, Employing Bodies and school managements. INTO remains ready as always to assist these individuals and bodies in this work.”
“We demand to know why the special and nursery sectors are not afforded the same consideration of their safety as applied to other school sectors. INTO calls on the Minister to demonstrate immediately protection for the staff in these settings.
“Mr Weir and his Executive colleagues would do well to concentrate their efforts in support of their expressed wishes to keep schools open by having vaccinations made available to members of school staffs who wish to take it.”
The organisation is now demanding that the very real concerns of teachers
“INTO repeats its call to the Minister, the Department of Education, Department of Health and the Executive to take seriously the valid concerns of its members,” said Caroline.
“We will only be reassured that safety is the Department’s primary concern when we see evidence of forward planning and an end to last minute and contradictory decision making.”