| 14.7°C Belfast

Long-awaited plan to reopen schools expected on Monday

Norma Foley said the memo will facilitate the reopening of primary and post-primary schools.

Close

Teacher Brian Nevin closes the gates to Beneavin De La Salle College, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Teacher Brian Nevin closes the gates to Beneavin De La Salle College, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Teacher Brian Nevin closes the gates to Beneavin De La Salle College, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

The long-awaited guidelines to fully reopen schools are expected to be published on Monday after the Education Minister brings a memo to Cabinet.

Norma Foley said the memo will facilitate the reopening of primary and post-primary schools across the country.

The minister has been facing mounting pressure in recent weeks to push ahead with plans and make them available to schools to enable the return of teachers and pupils in the new academic year.

Ms Foley described the document as “detailed and comprehensive”.

Close

Minister for Education Norma Foley said it had been a ‘long process of work’ (Niall Carson/PA)

Minister for Education Norma Foley said it had been a ‘long process of work’ (Niall Carson/PA)

PA

Minister for Education Norma Foley said it had been a ‘long process of work’ (Niall Carson/PA)

Speaking after she briefed Taoiseach Micheal Martin on the plan, Ms Foley said: “The full and safe reopening of schools is my number one objective as education minister.

“The partners in education, including parents, teachers, students, principals, and the widest representation, have fully and totally engaged in this process.

“Clarity takes time. I am confident that what I take to Cabinet will be solution-focused, it will be a road map that everyone can clearly identify with.

“There is no point in bringing anything that is not completed. It’s been a long process of work.”

She said that some exceptional cases will also be catered for.

Mr Martin said he was “struck” by the detailed planning, describing it as “comprehensive”.

He said that schools, parents, students and all the stakeholders in education helped shape the document.

“The minister will be bringing a very comprehensive memorandum to the Government on Monday, which will outline a package of measures which will be required to enable the reopening of schools and resources that will be required to outline the plan,” Mr Martin said.

“There are some final details to be done over the weekend.

“This isn’t just about the resumption of schools for the sake of it, it’s very much a comprehensive set of measures that will enable schools to reopen fully, but also in a resilient and robust way.”

He said he is confident pupils will be back in school by the end of August.

“I want to give confidence to parents today that the situation is well under way,” he added.

He said that detailed guidance will then be sent to schools.

As part of the Government’s financial rescue plan, some 75 million euro is being made available for schools to make the necessary changes, including work within classrooms and bathrooms.

Sinn Fein’s education spokesman Donnchadh O Laoghaire said the Taoiseach and Education Minister made an announcement today “about an announcement on Monday” on the road map to re-open schools.

“We have twice been promised a road map and those dates have come and gone so we await to see the detail on Monday,” he said.

“It is going to require significant investment in hygiene measures, PPE and partitions in order to keep teachers and school staff safe.”

Mr O Laoghaire called for an increase in personnel, including more teachers and special needs assistants, and more space in classrooms to implement the measures.

Meanwhile, the Health Minister has said that the R value, which is the number of people an infected individual passes the virus on to, has fallen to between 0.7 and 1.4.

Stephen Donnelly told the Dail that the best estimate is that the R number is at 1.1, adding that it has reduced in the last 10 days.

He warned about the risk of a second surge of Covid-19.

It comes after public health experts raised concerns about the rising number of coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

Elsewhere, the Government announced thousands of free or subsidised third level and further education places are to be provided to upskill people who have lost their job during the pandemic.

The package includes 35,000 places across further and higher education in areas where there are acute skills shortages such as ICT, high-end manufacturing, data analytics and artificial intelligence.

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said for the first time employers will receive financial incentives to take on new apprentices across a range of areas.

“Employers will receive 2,000 euro upfront per apprentice and a further 1,000 euro after 12 months if the apprentice is still employed,” he said.

“This is good for business and good for the individual.”

The health system has been notified of another 20 confirmed Covid-19 cases but no new deaths.

PA