By Cian Molloy - 10 May, 2020
The general secretary of the Catholic Primary School Managers Association, Seamus Mulconry, says he is confident
that schools will be able to open their doors for classroom teaching in the autumn, but he says robust planning and resources will be required to ensure that happens safely.
The education executive said he was amazed at how quickly schools adapted to the changed circumstances of the lock down, following the decision to close all schools on Thursday 12 March.
“The vast majority of schools moved quickly to put in place the infrastructure to make it possible for staff to work together, collaborate and share ideas and then they built on that to develop new practices and ways of doing lessons to ensure continuity of learning for pupils,” said Mr Mulconry.
He added: “It’s easy enough to close the schools; it’s exceptionally difficult to go about reopening them safely. There has been no decision yet on how we are going to do it.
“It’s extremely complex and will require a robust plan, and resources, to be put in place in a timely fashion, if it is going to be successful.”
Among the issues identified by the general secretary were: how to manage social distancing among young children, those in junior and senior infants; how to manage social distancing on school transport and how to protect vulnerable children.
“Schools are much more inclusive places than they were only a few years ago,” he explained. “There are now much more vulnerable children attending mainstream schools than before and these children need additional care.”
With every school’s circumstances being different, a great deal of consultation with stakeholders needs to take place before plans can be set on stone.
“Happily, the people who are best placed to advise on re-opening plans are already in place in the schools,” said Mr Mulconry. “Last week, I sent out an email asking our members what issues they had identified and when I came in the next morning, I had already received more than 68 responses from schools around the country.
“We are confident that if the Department of Education listens to people on the ground, provides additional resources and puts in place a proper road map we will see a return to school in the autumn.”