March 18th being looked at to begin one month Irish schools shutdown

The Department of Education issued 3 circulars on March 9th (yesterday) to the different education bodies in the country, including higher education authorities, Training boards and to Secondary & Primary schools.A copy of each circular is at the bottom of this article.

Each one states the following to each of it’s addressees:

“The Minister for Education and Skills directs you to implement the special arrangements to cater for COVID-19 for teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) employed in approved posts funded by monies provided by the Oireachtas. These special arrangements are to be implemented by each employer with immediate effect and all teachers and SNAs must adhere to the special arrangements “

In isolation, the circulars might be read as a call to arms to the various educational facilities in Ireland to begin implementing a broad range of new COVID-19 measures that fall under the “Special arrangements” category as mentioned above.

Curiously though the wording also relates to ‘monies provided’ for Teachers and Special Needs Assistants in ‘approved posts’. Amongst other things, this would indicate, I assume, guaranteed salary arrangements for the people in those approved posts in the event of enforced closures. It raises the question where this leaves substitute teachers and temporary contract workers in a school shutdown scenario.

Combat Arena has ascertained from a reliable source, that a large group (50-70) of educational board of management members and other primary and secondary stakeholders met yesterday in an undisclosed Dublin Hotel, to discuss Dublin and possibly countrywide school closures.

The same source related to me , that central to discussions, were plans to close all Dublin schools and possibly schools countrywide for one month starting on March 18th 2020. The timing, if it proceeds is intended to coincide with the scheduled St Patrick’s school break that will occur on Monday and Tuesday of next week. .

Easter Holidays in the Irish schools system this year are generally scheduled to begin nationwide on April 3rd 2020 , so in effect, the one-month closure will crossover with these holidays and in net terms mean a two-week additional period at home for students.

The source was not able to intimate how involved the hierarchy of the department of education were at this meeting and whether attempts will be made to implement some sort of online facility for teachers and students to interact during an enforced shutdown period.

Article will be updated as events unfold.

A Department of Education spokesperson since publication of this Article have issued an advisory to the media advising schools not to take to take unilateral actions. I would read this as an indication that the department are out of communication sync with the worries of their schools.

“Public health professionals will contact schools if there is any action to be taken. Schools should not take unilateral action “

A number of politicians and media complain about false media and social media reporting and yet articles such as mine are frequently mis-characterized as ‘false reporting’ by politicians and media – A group of people, as described in the article met yesterday and large scale school closures were discussed. Please clarify if the INTO are saying this is false and the article will be removed. It would be helpful also if the department and Unions would clarify if they have met or had discussions around widespread school closures in the past number of days. There has been very little direct communication from the Minister of Education on the subject of coronavirus contingency plans for our schools. He should at the very least should be briefing the media daily alongside the Minister for Health.

17:30PM – Having spoken to 3 school teachers in different schools this afternoon they have conveyed a confused message being sent to boards of managements of schools.

” It’s confused Gerry. Teachers like everyone else just want to know the facts and be kept up to speed. Kids are thinking and fearing the worst and it’s affecting their focus and concentration. No one knows what to believe any more. Most believe closures are inevitable but listening to the Dept.you’d swear all was well. I don’t think genuine teachers want the disruption at this stage of the year given exams in two months. Going to mean massive catch up and pressure after Easter “

Many Teachers and school staffs have been familiarizing themselves with tools Like Google Classroom in the eventuality of having to provide home support to their students.

” Boards of management have been given just basic advice about what to do in event of situation worsening. We as staff are figuring out how we will use Google classrooms etc in event of closure and telling kids to access their e books online “

We endeavor to provide accurate information where an inaccuracy, error or omission arises we are more than amenable to correcting it.

See below Higher education and school circulars from Department of Education website dated March 9th.

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