Schools left in the dark by the Department of Dysfunction

24 February 2021
  • No guidance provided in advance of schools reopening.
  • No communication on the specific changes to the curriculum and examination process for certain subjects.
  • No advice on assessment for predicted grades.

Ahead of the phased reopening of schools next week, Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has criticised the Department of Education’s failure to provide timely guidance to second level schools on reopening and management of Leaving Cert 2021.

Symptomatic of the scattergun approach in the Department, Deputy Ó Ríordáin highlighted the lack of respect shown to those in the school community who are working without clear information on how best to reopen safely. The lack of guidance for second level schools is particularly concerning, given the heighten risk of the transmission among this age category.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“The ongoing failure to communicate with those in the education sector continues to create challenges for students, parents and teachers alike. So far we have only received press statements, no circulars at second level or practical advice. The prevalence of new variants in our communities is an additional challenge that did not exist last December, and schools need to be fully informed as they try to keep everyone safe.

“School are being asked to turn the lights back on and hope for the best. While the Government seems to be deploying this strategy internally, it will not work for our school communities. We are still waiting for information on when and how levels are to be decided, the specific changes to the curriculum and examination method for certain subjects and guidance on how much assessment should be done for predicted grades.

“Leaving Cert students are no doubt relieved to return to in-class teaching however plenty of uncertainty remains for this group. With the existence of a variant that has a 70% transmission rate, holding mocks is just not appropriate and would likely be ruled out within the current public health guidance. The Minister needs to communicate to schools directly on this as soon as possible, and certainly before Monday.

“We’re also waiting to hear from the Minister regarding Leaving Cert fees which were waived for students last year following our campaigning on the issue. Students have been through enough already and schools don’t need the additional administrative burden. While €116 may not seem like a huge sum to the Minister, it is the cost of a weekly shop for most families throughout the country. In a year where we’ve faced unprecedented financial uncertainty, the fees should again be scrapped.

“The Department of Dysfunction needs to get itself together and provide guidance to school communities on all these issues. We need to ensure that the reopening of schools is a success, and schools must be supported with clear guidance without delay.”

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