Saturday 21 April 2018

Schools unlikely to be asked to open extra days to make up for week lost to weather

Gotta roll with it: Alex Williams (10) and Sophia Kyryk(10) from Rathcoole, Co Dublin, play in the snow yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
Gotta roll with it: Alex Williams (10) and Sophia Kyryk(10) from Rathcoole, Co Dublin, play in the snow yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Schools are unlikely to be asked to open extra days to make up for time lost because of this week’s closures.

In worst-case scenarios, Department of Education rules make provision for schools to pay back days lost to unforeseen events, such as by shortening the Easter holidays.

However, there is no evidence of a hardline approach that could oblige schools to reduce the Easter break to compensate for the unexpected closures, which come on top of a two-day nationwide shutdown for Storm Ophelia last October.

The combination of the two severe weather events mean the majority of schools will have been shut for a week this year.

But a statement from the department yesterday pointed to the “significant flexibility”  that schools have to make up the lost tuition time.

Short of working unscheduled days, the options available include prioritising tuition over other non-tuition activities, including abandoning the school tour, and, at second level, ensuring exam classes attend all classes to the end of May.

Thousands of schools, third-level colleges and colleges of further education in Leinster and Munster have been told to shut today and tomorrow because of the extreme conditions.

Schools in Connacht and Ulster will make individual decisions, depending on the circumstances in their area, while the weather situation in those provinces is being kept under review.

Hundreds of schools were also closed yesterday as the severe weather started to take a grip on the country and Met Éireann issued its highest alert, Status Red, at 5am for several counties.

The first that tens of thousands of parents and pupils knew of school closures was in a text message from principals yesterday morning, and there was some confusion because not all schools in the Status Red areas closed.

Education Minister Richard Bruton and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar came under fire from political opponents for not issuing a blanket instruction for all schools in Status Red areas to close yesterday.

Fianna  Fáil leader Micheál Martin said in the Dáil that parents and pupils were entitled to more clarity and school management needed more support to decide on closure.

Mr Martin said there should be an automatic school closure in areas covered by “red alert” warnings, which “would reduce the risk of accidents and traffic congestion”.

Mr Varadkar insisted that a “red alert” – which brings school bus services to a halt – could not be an automatic trigger to close down schools, some of which were not dependent on public transport.

Galway Mayo Institute of Technology is among the

eduction institutions outside the “red alert” zone that has taken a decision to close some facilities because of “treacherous driving conditions” on some roads.

It closed its Letterfrack campus yesterday at 3pm, and its Mountbellew campus is closing today at 2pm.

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News