School transport announcement worrying, Minister needs to show leadership
Labour Education Spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has described as worrying the announcement from the Department of Education that school buses will operate as normal and carry the same number of pupils as usual with no requirement to maintain a social distance on the bus.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:
“There are a number of questions that Minister Foley needs to address. Is this now official Department of Education policy that school buses are exempt from social distancing requirements? What attempts were made by the Department to engage with Bus Éireann, the Department of Transport and the NTA to deal with the logistical considerations by obtaining additional buses to deal with capacity constraints imposed by social distancing? She also needs to outline how children with underlying conditions who avail of school transport will be accommodated because the letter sent from her Department effectively endorses putting them on packed school buses.
“I am also very concerned by the way this announcement was made. Yet again we have a statement from the Department, this time in the form of a letter to parents with no ministerial follow up. There are clearly questions with this announcement as with last week’s announcement on face coverings. Minister Foley needs agree to attend the Oireachtas Covid-19 Committee to answer the many outstanding questions that remain around school reopening.
“You cannot govern by press release and that seems to be the approach Minister Foley has taken. The lack of leadership shown by her since she has been appointed is very concerning. Parents, teachers and school leaders need to see the Minister leading from the front. The reopening of our schools is scheduled to take place in the next two weeks and the Minister needs to stop hiding in the Department and address the many outstanding issues that remain.