Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 19 November 2020
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills
Engagement with Trade Unions on Keeping Schools Open: Discussion
Mr. John Boyle:
Sometimes one has to identify the extreme issues to explain the point. There was a particular issue in a school two weekends ago. I mentioned it earlier without mentioning the school. It was identified that up to 16 staff members could be absent for two weeks on public health advice. Thankfully, the teacher unions, the patron and school managerial authorities all have each other's numbers. The Department has a link person we can ring on Saturday and Sunday. Many phone calls are being made at this level between me and Deirdre Shanley in the Department. Ultimately, the regrettable decision was made on the Monday that the school had to close due to lack of staff. It was not necessarily on public health guidance, but they could not find 16 replacements. However, they had them by Tuesday.
There is a high level of engagement. The hotline for principals is very welcome but, as I mentioned earlier, it does not seem to work as well at weekends and Covid does not stop on Friday or Saturday. Many people are tested at weekends.
On the cross-Border issue, much more has to be done by both Administrations to make sure there is more connection between health services, North and South. When there are children transferring across from Strabane into Lifford or wherever the case may be, there has to be a proper contract-tracing system in place across both jurisdictions.