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Parents in protest against government’s view that re-opening of schools will be delayed

DUBLIN: Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the government wants to reopen schools on a phased basis in Ireland. Although the exact date cannot be given, Mr. Varadkar clarified that it is intended to open in February and March. The re-opening will begin with those children with additional needs. However, it has now been confirmed that the lockdown will continue until 5 March.

The Tánaiste said the government will continue talks with educational institutions and unions about the re-opening of the school. “It has to be done by agreement. We want to start with the special schools and then perhaps primary schools and exam classes,” he said.

“We have to consult with unions and parents groups and students, but we are reasonably confident that by mid-February we will be down to case numbers that were at the same level as when schools fully reopened last September.”

A decision on how to conduct the Leaving Cert exams this year also needs to be made soon. Education Minister Norma Foley is in talks with teachers’ unions and other stakeholders in education.

Protest against the Taoiseach’s statement

Criticism has been leveled at Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s statement that the school will not be open until St. Patrick’s Day. The National Parents Council said the Prime Minister’s statement caused parents to worry.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has criticised the Taoiseach’s remarks without consulting education partners. She said there should be discussions, cooperation and planning about reopening schools. The Sinn Féin leader said that priority should be given to those with additional needs. She accused the government of mitigating the concerns of students and teachers regarding state examinations.

NPC CEO Aine Lynch said it was “staggering” that schools in Ireland were closed when schools in other jurisdictions were able to open. Ms. Lynch said schools need to reopen immediately for vulnerable students, and that more clarity is needed on plans to reopen as well. There is a lot of confusion and anxiety among parents about reopening schools, so it should be done very carefully, Ms. Lynch said.

Dr. Leah O’Toole, Assistant Professor at the Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education at the University of Maynooth, said she was worried about those in the transitional stages of education, such as those in primary or secondary school. Parents are worried that the school closure may continue for another two months.

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