| 16.4°C Dublin

Foley under fire as doubts still remain over safe schooling

Close

Searching for solution: Education Minister Norma Foley has still to announce how schools will be made safe from Covid-19. Picture: Collins

Searching for solution: Education Minister Norma Foley has still to announce how schools will be made safe from Covid-19. Picture: Collins

Collins Photos

Searching for solution: Education Minister Norma Foley has still to announce how schools will be made safe from Covid-19. Picture: Collins

Education Minister Norma Foley has vowed to leave "no stone unturned" in efforts to reopen schools safely as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Ms Foley is under massive pressure to outline how children will be able to return to classrooms at the end of August.

Opposition politicians have been highly critical of the level of information available to parents, students and teachers.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin will this morning meet Ms Foley and the Minister of State for Special Education Josepha Madigan for an update on the plans amid mounting public and political concern.

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty claimed people were "in the dark" and raised suspicion the Government doesn't know what will happen either based on the "silence" from Ms Foley so far.

Labour TD Alan Kelly said his two children asked him to find out when they will be returning to school.

He referred to the Taoiseach's insistence that the reopening the schools is the Government's priority but added: "I'm not confident that's going to happen."

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said there's a "sense of panic" among parents and questions coming from teachers.

Last night a spokesperson for Ms Foley said she is working with students, parents, teachers and others "to ensure that there is full cooperation and focus on delivering education - including the reopening of schools."

The spokesperson added: "She is determined not to leave a stone unturned and is reluctant to get involved in party political point scoring."

A "detailed plan" for reopening schools and financial measures to support this "will be brought to government for consideration next week," the spokesperson said.

In the Dáil Mr Doherty challenged Tánaiste Leo Varadkar on whether children will be back in school on a five-day basis in September.

Mr Varadkar acknowledged that hundreds of thousands of parents are concerned and said it is "crucial" schools are opened as planned provided coronavirus continues to be suppressed. He said the Government want to get the decisions right and that confidence would be undermined if announcements were made and subsequently changed.

The Tánaiste said there are many other countries with higher instances of the virus than Ireland like Germany that have been able to reopen schools.

Mr Varadkar added: "There are other countries that have suffered much worse than us in this pandemic that never closed schools fully.

"I do think it would reflect very badly on us as politicians, on the Government, and on the education partners if we were unable to open our schools in August."

Teachers

He also said he has "no doubt" teachers will "rise to the challenge" and cooperate with the reopening.

Mr Kelly claimed that Ms Foley's failure to answer a Dáil question last week on when the Leaving Certificate results would be released was a "disgrace".

He demanded that she take Dáil questions on the reopening of schools.

Ms Foley's spokesperson said that the minister is "keenly aware of the obligations she has as a member of Dáil Éireann and as a Government minister".

They said she briefed opposition spokespeople earlier this week, setting out her "determination to make sure that our schools will open in the autumn" and some of the steps being taken to make that happen.

The spokesperson added that Ms Foley is scheduled to take questions from TDs next week.

Irish Independent