Norma Foley announces five emergency Covid measures to tackle school shortages

By Sophie Collins

Schools across Ireland have been crying out amid the recent Covid surge, with cases rising and teacher shortages seeing entire classes being sent home.

Last week, General Secretary of INTO, John Boyle, said it was "incumbent" for the government to implement additional safety measures if they are to effectively drive down transmission rates ahead of Christmas.

They carried out a survey in recent days - reaching 877 schools across the country - in which it was revealed that among the 231,912 pupils in the responding schools, 3,726 pupils were reported as testing positive for Covid-19 between November 1 and November 16.

In response to this, Minister for Education, Norma Foley, confirmed that antigen testing comes into effect for primary schools from Monday, November 29.

They will be available free for children attending school and can be delivered on request from Monday if another student in your child’s “pod” tests positive.

The HSE will work to deliver the antigen tests to parents and guardians of all children in a class pod as soon as one pupil in that pod tests positive for Covid.

Full class groups will be sent antigen tests only if two or more cases are detected in a seven-day period outside of one specific pod.

A dedicated call centre will be set up by the HSE to ensure the delivery of antigen tests to all parents from November 29.

The issue of teacher shortages has become the latest worry for primary schools across the country, Foley confirmed the following five measures to cope, which include:

  • Hiring 200 more substitute teachers on a full-time basis to step in for primary schools that are facing significant challenges
  • Additional student teachers from higher education institutions will be released from their courses up to the end of 2021
  • Retired teachers returning to work until the end of the current school term without any change to their pension
  • Suspension of professional development courses at primary level until the mid-term break in February 2022
  • Releasing teachers involved in teacher education support services to provide substitution cover
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