Education Minister Norma Foley said intensive engagement is continuing towards a full return of all students
The way has been cleared for almost 3,000 pupils of special classes in post-primary schools to return to the classroom on February 22.
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Association of Secondary Teachers lreland (ASTI) gave their backing last night.
It followed intensive talks involving the Department of Education and education partners including teacher unions, parents and school management bodies.
It means students attending these classes will return for in-person teaching and learning on the same day as primary school special classes go back.
Today, students in 124 special schools are the first to return to the classroom since the Christmas break.
The ASTI’s support came after a contentious meeting of its Standing Committee, which warned that the overall framework plan for a safe return of schools generally was “inadequate”.
The ASTI leadership said the plan “needs to be substantially reworked in order to ensure a safe phased return of all students in the coming period of time”.
The TUI executive committee also unanimously agreed to facilitate the return of Leaving Cert students from some point in the same week, subject to public health advice.
However, there is no wider agreement on that yet.
The breakthrough on special classes at post-primary is another small step in the phased reopening of schools for the first time since the Christmas holidays.
Overall, it means a path has been cleared for up to 20,000 pupils with special needs, across primary and post-primary, to get back to class.
But that represents only a tiny fraction of pupils and there are more than 900,000 awaiting a return date.
Education Minister Norma Foley said intensive engagement was continuing with education stakeholders towards a full return of all students to in-person teaching and learning in primary and post-primary schools “as soon as possible and when it is safe to do so”.