Irish teachers not keen on reopening in-person special education classes, citing safety reasons

The Irish Government has abandoned plans to reopen in-person special education classes this week after facing opposition from the Irish National Teachers’ Organization and Fórsa.

The move to halt the reopening of in-person special education classes came as a result of safety concerns raised by the two unions who indicated that the government and the schools had not prepared enough to send the children for in-person learning.

Re-opening special education classes

The two unions indicated that the government had failed to show how they would address the safety concerns that teachers had for the reopening of special education classes and urged the government to postpone the reopening. They emphasized that further consultations between teachers, the Government and the unions were necessary to ensure that resumption of school will be safe for all students.

The unions also demanded the Government to take proactive measures in ensuring that Covid testing was available for students and staff before school resumption.

Minister for Education Norma Foley, while admitting that the in-person special education classes reopening would not be possible, indicated that lack of cooperation with other staff was a contributing factor for the change in government tact.

She continued by highlighting that they had had discussions with unions, analyzed the risks involved in reopening and had come to the conclusion that schools with safety measures could reopen safely. She added that Ireland had become and outlier in the region, pointing to Northern Ireland which had successfully reopened the in-person special education schools without problem.

She added that the teachers’ unions had failed to obey science advice which had shown that schools could be reopened safely, calling the decision to keep the schools closed regrettable.

Unions, however, indicated that part of the reason they were opposed to reopening of the schools was because of mixed messages from the Government and science institutions. They argued it would not be safe to send students to schools without being able to provide efficient safety measures from Covid.