Generation of young people at risk if schools don’t return

26 July 2020
  • Opportunity now to permanently reduce class sizes

With a school reopening plan finally under preparation and due Monday, Labour Education  spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said it must address the generation of young people at risk of losing out, and now is the time to permanently reduce class sizes.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:
“With details finally starting to emerge about school reopening plans the government must seize the opportunity to permanently reduce class sizes and ensure a generation of young people at risk are not left behind.

“The re-opening of our schools is quite simply the most important item on the government’s agenda. Nothing can go back to normal in September unless the schools are back.

“Schools will need extra staff, extra building capacity and of course resources available to clean and sanitise their classrooms on a regular basis.

“If the package is at least €300 million it is essential that we get clarity on how many extra teachers and special needs assistants will be hired to help. We have some of the highest class sizes in Europe and this is our chance to finally reduce them.

“I’ve also heard from principals who have been so frustrated about the lack of clarity from the Department of Edudcation that they’ve gone out to source their own Personal Protective Equipment. We cannot expect Boards of Managements or Parents Associations to have to fundraise to finance this essential equipment. It should have been made perfectly clear before now that no school will have to dip into its own scarce resources to protect their staff and students.

“Another principal has told me that she’s terrified that we will lose a whole generation of vulnerable young people from the education system because they may not return in September. It is important to remember that if you are over sixteen years of age, there is no legal requirement for you to attend school.

“Schools, particularly in disadvantages areas do huge work in encouraging young people to stay engaged with education and this has been hugely challenging since no classroom teaching has taken place since March.

“That is why we are dangerously close to losing the life opportunities of those who depend on our school system the most. The Department of Education need to understand this and it must be part of the reopening plan published on Monday.”

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