It may not be possible for all children to return to school at the same time in September, the head of a primary school teachers’ union has said.
Schools and creches have been closed in Ireland since March.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) general secretary John Boyle has written to the Department of Education outlining a range of concerns.
Speaking to RTE Morning Ireland, he said teachers have been supporting students for the past eight weeks so they can continue their learning.
“If the public health advice allows for schools to re-open in September then all the proper planning must take place. It is a mammoth task to have the plans in place.
“We have the largest class sizes in Europe, having 30 children in an 80 square metre classroom with one or two adults may not be possible initially in September.
“If we couldn’t have large groups of students sitting in a room doing the Leaving Cert then having lots of children in a classroom was always going to be an issue.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Newstalk FM it is not the Government’s intention to re-open schools ahead of September.
“The Department of Education and the teachers’ unions and all the partners in education are examining that and looking at what’s happening in other countries and seeing how we’re going to open the schools in a practical way, and a safe way in September.”
He said any decision to re-open schools comes with risk.
If we couldn't have large groups of students sitting in a room doing the Leaving Cert then having lots of children in a classroom was always going to be an issueINTO general secretary John Boyle
“There’s never going to be 100% no risk. Unfortunately, a couple of kids every year got meningitis, maybe in school and getting very sick as a result, that doesn’t cause us to close schools indefinitely.”
Asked if he can be definite that students will return to school in September, Mr Varadkar added: “I can’t say that, there is the risk of the virus coming back again and spreading again.”
He said he would like to see children with special needs get extra attention ahead of schools re-opening, as he has been contacted by parents concerned about the impact the closure is having on their development.
“One particular area which we really would like to do something on, and that is the kids who’ve got special needs, children with autism or children with intellectual disability or behavioural problems.
“They’ve been on hold since March. Some of them may actually be regressing in terms of their development.
“I’m really worried about that group of children. I got a lot of letters from their parents as well.”