Intervention of Taoiseach needed to resolve School Reopening Shambles

19 January 2021

Labour spokesperson on Education, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, has called on the Taoiseach to intervene to resolve the shambles that his Minister and her Department have created over the reopening of schools for children with special needs.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:
“The Minister for Education and her Department have handled the reopening of schools for SEN students in a shambolic way. For the second time in as many weeks a failure to work with the trade unions of education workers has resulted in a total lack of confidence in their safety if they return to classrooms.

“I reiterate my call from earlier today for the Taoiseach to intervene to resolve this shambles. A flexible approach with discretion for individual schools is now needed to allow local circumstances and the needs of individual students to be considered in any reopening plan.

“Despite the many missives from the Minister, the re-opening of SEN schools and classes on Thursday is now impossible. Children with special needs are regressing rapidly, and their parents are at breaking point. This is just not good enough.

“This is a mess entirely of the Department’s own making. Through mismanagement, they have damaged the partnership approach that has worked since September. While everyone’s ultimate wish is to resume in-person special education, this is only on the basis that it is safe to do so in agreement with the unions. Given the dire situation we now find ourselves in, I’m calling on the Taoiseach to intervene and rapidly rebuild the trust between groups that the Minister has forfeited.

“All parties need fully up to date public health guidance to make a fully informed decision on this. I’m also very concerned about the narrative building from Government about the unions. Any attempt by Government to blame trade unions for its own ineptitude should be rejected by all who genuinely want to see a safe return for SEN students.

“The Minister has a duty to these families to be upfront and honest about what’s going to happen. At this point, it’s clear that there is a lack of leadership on education. Our Leaving Cert’s were suddenly recalled, a decision that was reversed once the Minister actually considered the public health advice. What’s more, we’re still waiting on some form of communication about the plans to hold this year’s State examinations – or not.

“I am urging the Taoiseach to step up and intervene in this mess. Education is a crucial aspect to the development of our society. The Taoiseach cannot stand by now as another crisis in education escalates.”

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