August 8, 2022

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The continued use of masks and other Covid infection prevention and control measures in schools...

The continued use of masks and other Covid infection prevention and control measures in schools after the mid-term break will be the focus of talks on Monday.
ublic health advisers and Department of Education officials will meet representatives of teacher unions and school management to discuss the ongoing situation.
Public health officials will outline the most up to date data on Covid as it relates to schools and the school-going population, while teachers and school representatives will share their concerns.
It is the first meeting of this group since early January and the first formal review of the situation in schools since the significant easing of Covid restrictions in wider society in recent weeks.
Covid mitigation measures have remained in place in schools pending a full review of the landscape in education, which will determine whether any or all restrictions can be lifted when classes return after the mid-term break, on February 28.
Monday’s talks come ahead of a meeting of the public health expert group, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), next Thursday, which will formally advise Government on what restrictions should be in place in schools from February 28.
There is some pressure building up among parents for an end to mask wearing for pupils from third class up in primary schools.
However, the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA) and Irish National Teahcers Organisation say there should be no immediate relaxation of measures.
CPSMA secretary general Séamus Mulconry has cautioned that any lifting of restrictions should be phased.
In relation to masks, he said, “the pandemic may be over for the public. It’s not over for primary schools just yet.”
Mr Mulconry said there were high numbers of Covid cases in schools among both pupils and teachers, and primary schools were also dealing with the largest group of unvaccinated people, the 5-11 year olds.
He said CPSMA had always been guided by public health advice, and would continue be guided by public health advice . In relation to mask wearing, the message from his members was that “they feel we’re not just at that point just yet”.
Mr Mulconry has also warned that the availability of substitute teachers may worsen after the mid-term break, as student teacher who have been helping out start returning to college.
The INTO has said that any relaxation of schools’ infection prevention and control measures should be delayed for two more months at least, unless public health officials can confirm that the situation in primary schools will improve dramatically in the next three weeks.
INTO general secretary John Boyle will also be advocating at Monday’s meeting for quicker response times from public health, which were promised by government in the event of multiple cases in schools.

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