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school return 'Very unlikely' schools will reopen next month, health expert warns

Dr Gabriel Scally said the "whole process" of children going to school, mixing with staff and returning home could further increase risk of transmission.


Dr Gabriel Scally (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Gabriel Scally (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Gabriel Scally (Brian Lawless/PA)

It is “very unlikely” that schools will reopen as planned in February, public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally has said.

He said that the "whole process" of children going to school, mixing with staff and returning home could further increase risk of transmission.

“Children are not at great risk but there is no doubt about it that there is the whole process of getting children to school, all of the teachers and staff that are there and there is transmission between children and transmission back into families again.

"Given the terrible situation we are in, I don’t think schools should be open," he told Newstalk Breakfast.

Dr Scally suggested that schools should use this time to prepare for safe reopening.

“Try and make them safer by taking over more space,” he said. “Other buildings, community halls, sports halls, whatever, so that in future months, the classes can be more spread.

“They should be doing something really serious about ventilation. Opening windows that maybe don’t open. Putting in new windows that can open all of that kind of stuff. It is a good opportunity now to get the schools safer.”

Social Democrats spokesperson on Education, Gary Gannon TD, has said that Education Minister Norma Foley needs to outline how schools should ensure a safe and speedy return to the classroom for students with additional needs when she addresses the Dáil this afternoon.

Deputy Gannon said: “The immediate focus now must be on a pathway to resolve the education needs of those who most need to get back into the classroom.

"There was no planning as to what needed to be done in our schools in the event of a lockdown. What we need to see now is a forum for the safe and appropriate return to school, involving all the education partners.

“That forum should involve representatives of teachers, students and parents, but it should also engage patron, management bodies and advocacy groups. It should also bring in the other agencies of the State that have an interest in the area.

“The Minister needs to set out the Dáil exactly what she will do to ensure that the education requirements of our special needs students will be fulfilled. Their interests must come first."

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Meanwhile, talks are continuing today between the INTO and the Department of Education in relation to plans to re-open schools.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation also outlined its priorities ahead of any re-opening, including that its members are given higher prioritisation for the Covid-19 vaccine.

The group has called on the Government to engage with all stakeholders in effort to return additional needs students to school safely.

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