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Government has explored possibility of extending mid-term school break

Ministers emphasised that no decision has yet been taken on any such move.

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Reports suggest ministers have discussed the idea of shutting schools for an extra week (Liam McBurney/PA)

Reports suggest ministers have discussed the idea of shutting schools for an extra week (Liam McBurney/PA)

Reports suggest ministers have discussed the idea of shutting schools for an extra week (Liam McBurney/PA)

The Government has raised the possibility of extending school closures over the mid-term break but said that “no decision has been taken”.

A spokesman for the Department of Education and Skills said that schools are low-risk environments for Covid-19 and are not key drivers of transmission in the community.

The comments follow a report in the Irish Independent on Friday that said the Cabinet discussed the idea of closing schools for an additional week.

In a statement, the department said that to date evidence shows that schools have reopened safely.

“No decision has been taken to extend schools’ mid-term breaks,” the spokesman added.

All education stakeholders must be fully consulted in any such move to allow for any disruption to regular school business to be planned forMichael Gillespie

“Keeping schools safely open for children and staff is a key priority at all levels of the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with Covid-19.

“At levels one to four inclusive, schools can remain open with protective measures, and at level five recommendations will be based on the situation and evidence at the time.

“The Department of Health in recent days has advised the Department of Education and Skills that this issue has been afforded careful consideration by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

“In recommending that schools remain open at the present time, even in the current trajectory of the disease, the NPHET has considered the national experience of school reopening to date, including the epidemiological data and information gathered through case and outbreak management.”

The department said that many cases of Covid-19 linked to schools in Ireland have been found to have exposure to the disease outside of the school environment, such as household or social settings.

“Similarly, where testing of close contacts (of confirmed cases linked to the school), identifies additional cases of Covid-19, many of these are found to have had exposure to the disease outside of the school,” the statement added.

They said there have been few instances where transmission of Covid-19 within a school is strongly suspected by HSE Public Health.

As of October 6, 252 schools have had some testing completed as a consequence of a public health risk assessment.

Some 5,890 students and teachers have been involved in mass testing.

From the 252 schools that had mass tests there have been an additional 112 detected cases over and above original cases.

This equates to a rate of 1.9%, the department said.

Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) general secretary Michael Gillespie said they first they became aware of the reports through the media.

“Clearly, all education stakeholders must be fully consulted in any such move to allow for any disruption to regular school business to be planned for,” Michael said.

“Ahead of next week’s budget, we are calling for ongoing flexibility in terms of the funding available for the education system, as every resource required to ensure the health and safety of educators and students must be made available in the months ahead.”

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