Complacency reigns in the Department of Education

22 September 2021

Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said that while the move to change the contact tracing process in schools is welcome, it is far too late. Despite assurances from the Minister during the education committee yesterday that there were no issues, it is clear now that this was wrong.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“This move is really welcome but it is being made weeks too late. Throughout the entirety of the pandemic, the Minister and Department have not listened or responded to what principals and members of the opposition have been saying in good faith. My office has been inundated with contact from principals who are totally exasperated at the lack of the support from the HSE. Thousands of children have been losing out on school days unnecessarily for weeks.

“When I suggested that the Department was being too complacent yesterday during the education committee, I was told there were no problems. Today’s announcement shows that the situation in fact did need to be reassessed. Up to now, children have been sent home unnecessarily and this could have been avoided. This belated action is welcome but will not address the time lost by children up to this point.

“Complacency has set in in the Department when it comes to the pandemic. This was further evidenced in the €50 million fund announced by the Department to make up for school closures. In February, we called for a €100 million catch up fund and for the Minister and the Department to carry out a forensic examination of the impact of the closure of schools on our children. This did not happen then, it is not happening now, and it’s entirely unclear if it will ever happen.

“Children have missed out on a whole range of important in class learnings and experiences that are vital to their full development. We welcome the belated action to change the process of contact tracing in schools, and we hope that the Minister will work constructively with unions and members of the opposition going forward.”

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