Fórsa has said a €375 million financial package, announced by the Government this week, could boost confidence that schools can be reopened safely at the end of August. But the union added that more needed to be done to ensure the safe resumption of education in special schools and settings.
The package reflects a Government determination that schools will reopen for the new school year – a move that’s seen as essential to economic recovery and the educational needs of students.
It includes extra funding for additional special needs assistants (SNAs) and other staff, personal protective equipment (PPE), and enhanced cleaning regimes. There are also resources for guidance counsellors and psychologists.
In a meeting with special education minister Jacinta Madigan last Wednesday (29th July), Fórsa’s head of education, Andy Pike, said workers wanted to play their part to ensure that schools open safely. But he said the union had concerns about maintaining the safety of children and SNAs working in both mainstream and special settings.
“Social distancing will not be possible for many SNAs, so the introduction of PPE and other safety measures will be necessary. The published guidance is a first step, but it lacks the necessary clarity on some health and safety measures including basic advice for SNAs on infection control and use of PPE.” he said.
Most observers believe a successful resumption of schooling is an essential ingredient in reopening the economy because parents are unable to work normally if they also have to mind children.
Since schools and crèches were closed on 13th March, most parents have been juggling work with childcare. During the lockdown, informal supports from grandparents and other family members were also curtailed.
There are also fears that, even if schools reopen fully, many crèches and other pre-school facilities will remain shut. While two-thirds of childcare providers applied for State support to reopen their doors, only a quarter – roughly 1,200 out of 4,500 – have so far reopened.
Parents may come under more pressure as social distancing rules reduce capacity and increase childcare costs.
Read Fórsa’s statement HERE.
Get detailed of the schools’ reopening package HERE.
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