U-turn on face masks welcome but unnecessary stress caused

24 March 2021

Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has welcomed the Minister for Education’s u-turn on the wearing of masks for oral examinations. However Deputy Ó Ríordáin criticised the Department for the unnecessary stress and concern caused by the incident, calling for strict adherence to public health advice on all matters relating to education.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“I raised this issue with the Minister on Tuesday and I’m glad to see she has revised the previous guidelines. Public health advice should always have been followed for the oral exams. We know how effective face masks are at protecting people against the virus and there’s no doubt but that they provide a sense of security to students, teachers and the wider school community. This whole debacle has caused unnecessary stress to students and teachers and highlights the incoherent strategy the Department has for the state examinations.

“It was never appropriate to suggest that face masks should not be worn for these in-person examinations. We know how virulent the virus is. Droplets cause the spread of this virus and undertaking orals without masks could easily lead to outbreaks in the school community. Students, teachers and the wider school community must be reassured that their safety and protection is heeded at all times. We must always support and implement public health guidelines and rules and wear masks in the school setting.

“The Minister should also now move to change department policy on the sitting of Junior Cycle exams for vulnerable students. The case made by those working in the sector is a justifiable one and will serve as a positive move for those who need this level of certification most. The sitting of written Junior Cycle exams is crucial for their future and the Minister must move to make this possible for the small number of students involved.

“Common sense must prevail on all these issues. The communication breakdown that prevails in the Department must be addressed to prevent any further unnecessary stress on the wider school community.”

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