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Schools close but studies can keep going

Secondary schools waiting on clarity about state exams

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Loreto College Swords, Peter McNamara.

Loreto College Swords, Peter McNamara.

Loreto College Swords, Peter McNamara.

Emergency plans were underway in schools across Fingal last week following the announcement by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of the closure of all schools due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus.

Schools nationwide were alerted to the closures last Thursday March 12, with schools not due to re-open until March 29.

All childcare facilities and third-level institutions have also closed as part of the Government's emergency plans.

Loreto College Swords Principal, Mr Peter McNamara said that, although the Taoiseach's decision came as some surprise, it was probably the 'proportionate measure' given the level of threat facing the country due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Speaking after the Taoiseach's announcement on March 12, Mr McNamara said: 'I wasn't too surprised at the decision, but I was surprised at how fast it came in the end.

'I would have thought the announcement would be that the schools would close from next week or something like that.

'It's probably the necessary and proportionate measure in order to try and contain the threat of Covid-19, but announcing it at 11 o'clock in the middle of a school day and just closing at the end of today came very sudden.'

Mr McNamara added: 'Obviously the experts felt that it needed to be done today and I'd have to support that and agree with that decision.'

Mr McNamara said he had no prior indication of the emergency measures other than information which had been disclosed to the general public.

The closure of Loreto College, he said, would be a 'challenging time for our pupils, and a challenging time for our teachers.'

He said: 'We have encouraged all of our students to take home their books and learning material with them, and we've been encouraging them to take them home for a number of days.

'We want to minimise the impact on teaching and learning, and we hope that some teachers will continue to provide online resources for students. Where students are equipped to access, a lot of teachers have prescribed extra work. A lot of students will be using e-books, and we will be encouraging our students through our parents to put time aside every school day for regular study.'

Mr McNamara said there was particular concern for Leaving Cert students, who were due to begin oral and practical exams on Monday March 23.

He was hoping, he said, to receive clarification on contingency planning from the State Exams Commission (SEC), which he said had yet to provide updates to educators.

Mr McNamara said: 'I am hoping that I do get clarification or I do get information, and the minute I receive that it will be shared with my sixth year students because they are our priority, and they are the ones who are most worried about this as we speak. I would be giving a message to all students today that we're all there to support each other, and I will be keeping families, parents and students updated with information as I receive it.'

Fingal Independent