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Inspectors redeployed to help Covid school teams


Safety issues: ASTI president Ann Piggott has concerns

Safety issues: ASTI president Ann Piggott has concerns

Safety issues: ASTI president Ann Piggott has concerns

School inspectors are being redeployed to the HSE to speed up support for principals dealing with the fall-out from a confirmed Covid-19 case when classrooms reopen next Monday.

The HSE School Teams are being strengthened after criticism of unacceptable delays in the public health response in the run-up to mid-term break, when the contact tracing system became overwhelmed.

There has also been an issue about variations in the follow-up action after Covid is identified in a school, with, for instance, in some cases, a 'pod' of pupils asked to stay at home while elsewhere an entire class may be excluded temporarily.

Public health's risk assessment of each case takes account of the particular circumstances and draws on a range of information before deciding what needs to be done, but different responses have caused confusion.

Inspectors' knowledge of schools and their relationships with principals is seen as a way to enhance the work of the public health teams in communicating with and advising schools that are faced with an infection,

The Department of Education said 29 'whole-time equivalent' inspectors were being made available to the HSE.

Hundreds of schools have been seeking to replace supplies of up to 52 hand sanitisers and other anti-Covid products removed from the approved list for use because they were not properly registered. A helpline for principals to ensure they have stocks by Monday received about 370 calls by last night and 360 emails.

Questions remain about the listing of sanitisation products that had not met the requirement to be on the Department of Agriculture's Biocidal Register.

According to a statement from the Department of Education, the requirement on suppliers was to "confirm" that their products were compliant with relevant regulations.

Meanwhile, the HSE said as part of its ongoing inventory review of all biocidal products, it had identified one item on the Education Product Recall List that was purchased by the HSE, and it was not distributed into healthcare facilities.

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The leadership of the secondary teachers' union, ASTI, say substantial progress was need to ensure that schools are safe and can remain open, but it has not activated its threat of industrial action. The ASTI Standing Committee met yesterday to consider the outcome of ballots supporting action, up to strike, on a range of Covid issues as well as two-tier pay scales.

The meeting heard that there had been improved engagement with the Department of Education and Nphet and it was expected that this engagement would continue.

There was no mention of moving closer to industrial action, but ASTI president Ann Piggott said substantial progress on safety issues in schools was needed to avoid any action.

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