Saturday 18 November 2017

Fury over O'Keeffe's decision to close all schools

Sophia Hu,
left, with Sophie Fleming,
centre, and sister Isabelle,
from Castleknock, Dublin,
enjoying the snow at the
Phoenix Park yesterday
Sophia Hu, left, with Sophie Fleming, centre, and sister Isabelle, from Castleknock, Dublin, enjoying the snow at the Phoenix Park yesterday
Children enjoying the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity play on a frozen Lough Ree on the River Shannon yesterday
A woman ice skates on Lough Gur in Co Limerick
Don Gleeson and David Donovan enjoy a snowball fight on the ice on Kilkishen lake in Co Clare yesterday afternoon
Snowmen on the tennis court at Herbert Park in Dublin
An Air Corps helicopter was dispatched yesterday to airlift bales of hay to save animals stranded on islands on the frozen Lough Ree in Westmeath
Locals on the shores of the lake assist the Air Corps with fodder for the drop
Rock climber John Hussey, from Killarney, equipped with shoe crampons,an ice axe and ropes, navigates his way up Carrauntoohil Mountain in Kerry at the weekend
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

EDUCATION Minister Batt O'Keeffe faces a furious backlash over his decision to impose a blanket three-day closure on the country's 4,000 schools from today.

More than 1,000 primary schools say there was no need for them to shut and Mr O'Keeffe now faces a battle with schools over making up for lost days.

The closure leaves 850,000 children sitting at home until Thursday -- forcing thousands of working parents into making last-minute child-minding arrangements.

Forecasters last night downgraded the weather warning and roads in the capital dramatically improved yesterday.

Despite these changes, Mr O'Keeffe has no plans to review the three-day closure of schools before tomorrow.

Preparations for the mock examinations for Junior and Leaving Cert students have been affected by the disruption.

But Mr O'Keeffe wants to discuss ways in which the impact of the closure can be minimised -- particularly for examination classes.

His spokesperson said: "Schools should have scope to make up days either at mid-term or prior to the end of the school year."

The closure decision was taken on health and safety grounds on Friday after about three-quarters of all schools shut for the first two days of the new term because of the icy weather.

While the move was welcomed in many quarters, managers of the 3,200 primary schools are highly critical.

They have written to Mr O'Keeffe outlining their concerns. They said over 30pc of primary schools were able to open last week.

"In locations unaffected by the current weather emergency, there is no reason for schools to close and such closures will cause unnecessary disruption for parents, children and staff."

Eileen Flynn, general secretary of the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association, representing 92pc of primary schools, said one of the factors causing concern was that schools would be asked to make up days.

"The real issue is in schools that could be open this week, but have been closed by a decision of the paymaster."

She said schools would have issued a calendar at the start of the year around which staff and parents made their plans.

At second level, Michael Moriarty of the Irish Vocational Education Association, representing about one-third of schools, is open to discussing with Mr O'Keeffe how to make up for the lost days.

Confident

The Joint Managerial Body (JMB) representing almost two-thirds of secondary schools believes any decision on closure should be left to individual schools.

JMB general secretary Ferdia Kelly said he would be confident that co-operation at local level would ensure programmes are completed -- particularly for exam classes.

Rose Tully of the National Parents Council Post-Primary and Aine Lynch of the National Parents Council Primary do not favour interfering with the mid-term break.

NUI Maynooth has rescheduled exams planned for today while UCD has closed the campuses at Belfield and Blackrock until tomorrow.

Dublin Institute of Technology has also postponed exams scheduled to take place today and all classes in its Conservatory of Music and Drama are cancelled until Thursday.

Irish Independent

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