Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 2 December 2021
Select Committee on Education and Skills
Estimates for Public Services 2021
Vote 26 - Education and Skills (Supplementary)
Vote 45 - Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Supplementary)
I appreciate the Deputy's question. The education sector consistently and without fault has always followed the public health advice. I have said regularly that I hope that it has come as an assurance to parents and guardians and our students and our staff in the entire school sector that when public health advice becomes available, we have always followed it. The nature of Covid has meant that the public health advice changes at times. When it does and when it asks us to pivot in a particular direction, we do that. When we are asked to bring in additional measures, we do that. We have done that throughout the management of Covid. We received the strong recommendation and advice of public health that a short-term measure should be introduced. It is important that we acknowledge that this is viewed as a short-term measure. As a consequence of that, the Cabinet decided on Tuesday to accept the recommendations and advices of the Chief Medical Officer, CMO, and NPHET in this regard. The Department had to wait for the advice and expertise from the health protection surveillance unit, as we have always done, in respect of implementation. We received that late on Tuesday evening and, on receipt of that, the guidelines issued to schools. The guidelines always issue following the recommendations of public health.
I wish to be clear on the guidelines. This is not a position any one of us want to be in at this point. None of us wants to have to deal with Covid on an ongoing basis. We have an ever-changing situation that is in a constant state of flux. Notwithstanding that, we have to act on the public health advice. The advice was issued to the schools. Flexibility and discretion have been given so as to bed that down over the coming days with students. I wish to say-----