Schools told: Cut holidays to make up for lost days
THE Department of Education yesterday asked schools to consider cutting their holidays short to make up for days lost because of the weather.
The department has suggested schools could look at the possibility of returning early after Christmas or shortening the February mid-term break or the Easter holidays.
At this stage, the department is seeking feedback from school managers on what they think might be possible.
Some schools have been closed for up to 12 to 15 days already and may be forced to remain shut until after Christmas because of the weather conditions.
Hundreds of schools did not open again yesterday and primary school principals said it could have been as high as 800, or one in four national schools. Worst affected are pupils living in rural areas, who have to travel on secondary and minor roads, which are not being gritted.
There were no school buses in Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, or Mayo, yesterday and in many other counties the service was cut.
As the Arctic weather continued into a fourth week, education authorities were becoming increasingly concerned about the impact on pupils, particularly leaving and junior certificate classes.
There is a requirement on schools to make all reasonable efforts to make up time lost due to unforeseen circumstances.
However, the extent of the closure in some areas makes it impossible for all days to be restored within the limits of the standardised school year.
The standardised school year fixes the dates for the Christmas and Easter holidays and the mid-term breaks.
There is no question of the department suspending the national arrangements because there are wide variations in how schools have been affected by the weather.
But in contacts with school managers yesterday, it was suggested that individual schools could be given flexibility to change the holiday periods this year. The managers were asked to offer their views before the department takes the matter up with teacher unions.
Ferdia Kelly of Joint Managerial Body, representing secondary school managers, said he was confident that schools would make up lost time, especially for exam classes.
Irish Vocational Education Association secretary Michael Moriarty said vocational education committees would ensure that examination classes would not be disadvantaged.
The Irish Primary Principals Network called for flexibility to enable schools to make up the lost days.
The Irish National Teachers Organisation said the key planning that needed to be undertaken related to the gritting of roads and footpaths, particularly secondary roads.