Confirmation of NPHET sanction for Leaving Cert provisions needed
- Clarity on schools welcome but Government continue to firefight this issue
Labour Education Spokesperson, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, has welcomed the clarity around the availability in-class learning for Leaving Cert students and students with special needs, however the Labour Party want to ensure that the Leaving Cert provisions have been sanctioned by NPHET. Speaking following the Government announcement, Deputy Ó Ríordáin also called for emergency provisions for holding this year’s Leaving Cert examinations to be put in place immediately:
“The current situation is extremely serious and we need to ensure that the provisions for in-class teaching of Leaving Cert students have been sanctioned by NPHET. Myself and our party leader Alan Kelly wrote to NPHET asking for an urgent investigation into the safety of our schools and while the clarity is welcome, we need to ensure we are adhering to the public health guidance. Schools are an essential service, and that is why we must now prioritise the vaccination of school staff to protect them in the delivery of this service.
“This Government is firefighting issues as they arise rather than following best practice. The plans for this eventuality should have been drafted and ready to avoid a blanket closure of schools. The Department asked every school to have a critical incident policy, yet it seems to have none of its own.
“As the Children’s Ombudsman said this morning, the Government must step up and do everything possible to protect vulnerable students at this time. All students are being negatively impacted by school closures, but there is no doubt that disadvantaged students and students with special needs are being profoundly affected by being out of school.
“I am calling on the Government and NPHET to really consider the evidence and investigate the possibility of allowing small cohorts of additional groups including the children of frontline healthcare workers attend school, as has been facilitated by our peers in the UK.
“Teachers across the country are working extremely hard to deliver remote lessons, but we know that this simply does not replicate in-class learning, particularly for disadvantaged students and students with special needs. We need to move away from schools being a binary choice of all in or all out – we need practical, actionable options for students.
“Listening to students and teachers, all they want is some level on clarity. We simply can’t inflict the same uncertainty on the Class of 2021 that we did on last year’s Leaving Cert students. A plan needs to be put in place now for the holding of this year’s Leaving Cert. This Government needs to start learning from their mistakes and find practical solutions for students.”