Updated 54 minutes ago
The Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) has said it has never put forward the idea of closing schools earlier than the Christmas holidays.
Union General Secretary Michael Gillespie said the idea was first mooted by politicians and that there was a petition about it but the union was not advocating for it.
The idea of closing schools during the Christmas holidays on Friday, December 18 was higher in the coming days than it was on Tuesday, December 22, which TUI said would “take action once”.
Speaking today, Gillespie pushed the union away from the proposal.
“In response to the questions we asked, I think initially it was raised by a political party and then there was a huge petition about it,” he said.
TUI’s response was that it deserves consideration. We never asked or suggested, it seems like what people were quoting. So we answered the press questions and said it deserves consideration.
“The reason we said good-bye is that Mondays and Tuesdays are not higher education days,” Gillespie added.
There are a lot of things going on in the traditionally hidden curriculum, days, shows, and perhaps religious ceremonies, depending on the school.
Union officials said some of the union’s own members were upset with the proposal but others were considering it. “It didn’t go any further than that,” he said.
The committee also said that some schools would be forced to close in the winter if the weather is too cold due to ventilation and heating problems.
Kieran Christie, general secretary of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), said teachers and students have been wearing coats in class since the onset of cold weather.
He said sanitation and ventilation facilities needed to be upgraded and the union was concerned about the different capacity of schools to implement key aspects of the Kovid-19 response plan.
“With the onset of cold weather, keeping many classrooms warm and well ventilated is a big problem in schools,” he said.
Teachers and students have their coats on several occasions. If there is a period of cold weather in the coming weeks or months, many schools will have to close during this period.
He said there was a lack of communication protocols in schools where the Kovid-19 outbreak was needed and it needed to be addressed and schools needed to prioritize quick testing and detection.
Christie was one of four delegates from teachers and other school workers’ trade unions who appeared before the Education Committee on Thursday to discuss issues affecting schools during the epidemic.
Gillespie said the second-level school buildings were “not fit for purpose.”
He asked each school to conduct a full audit to establish and calculate the resources needed to open them.
TUI urges the Department of Education to take the advice of HPSC (Health Protection Monitoring Center) and install air quality meters in all classrooms – this will ensure that students and teachers are not compelled to teach and learn about freezing cold classrooms, ”he said.
In order to prove our education system is medium and in the future, we need to re-imagine school design. The current crisis has demonstrated the importance of infrastructure suitable for the purpose.
The committee was also told that teachers should be given priority when the Kovid-19 vaccine becomes available.
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John Boyle, general secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organization (INTO), said the government should have given the flu flu vaccine to all teachers. When a Covid-19 vaccine became available, the union “forced” all those working in schools to “give priority”.
He said the government should send a strong message to families going abroad for Christmas. Children need to control their movements when they return in January according to public health advice before going to school.
TDs and senators have called on unions to review the need for high-risk teachers to attend schools during outbreaks.
Christie said she fears pregnant teachers and other vulnerable staff and students will have to attend class.
“Teachers and students in every school are vulnerable to their health or personal circumstances, including pregnancy,” he said.
ASTI was alarmed that many of these members had to attend schools and were not provided with remote or reasonable accommodation to allow them to participate in their work or study in a more appropriate context.
Teachers are essential workers in the education system. Schools need to be safe places for teachers and students: Health, safety and well-being should be a priority for school management, the education department and skills. ”
– With PA reporting