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Safety fears may scupper plan to reopen Republic's special schools


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Plans in the Republic to reopen schools for pupils with special needs are in chaos amidst a backlash from teachers and special needs assistants. (Ian West/PA)

Plans in the Republic to reopen schools for pupils with special needs are in chaos amidst a backlash from teachers and special needs assistants. (Ian West/PA)

PA

Plans in the Republic to reopen schools for pupils with special needs are in chaos amidst a backlash from teachers and special needs assistants. (Ian West/PA)

Plans in the Republic to reopen schools for pupils with special needs are in chaos amidst a backlash from teachers and special needs assistants.

In a serious setback, the Irish National Teachers Organisation (Into) last night called for Thursday's reopening to be reconsidered.

Now it will be a race against the clock to overcome what Into has described as "grave safety concerns".

The union's central executive committee said teachers' concerns had not been adequately addressed by a public health webinar and by the Irish Government.

Into's statement will be a devastating blow to families of thousands of children with special needs, who have suffered most by being out of school during the pandemic.

A statement said: "Teachers are understandably and justifiably anxious about their own safety and that of their pupils whilst community infection levels remain very high.

"The public health webinar, organised by the Department of Education following an Into call for up-to-date information, failed to allay teachers' fears."

Almost 16,000 people logged on for the online seminar, but the efforts to allay fears were greeted with comments such as "waste of time" and "insult to all".

If partial reopening is abandoned, it will be the second time in a fortnight that Irish Education Minister Norma Foley has been forced to retreat on the issue.

In Northern Ireland, Education Minister Peter Weir has said that special schools should remain open to all students.

However, south Belfast special school Fleming Fulton said last week its pupils can only attend part-time for two days a week.

In a letter to parents principal Karen Hancock said no additional guidance from the Department of Education had been received by the school since January 5. In light of that, and the increasing numbers of positive cases, the school shifted to a two-day week for pupils.

Belfast Telegraph


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