Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills

Reopening of Schools, Cork Life Centre, School Bullying and the Impact on Mental Health: Discussion.

Photo of Jim O'CallaghanJim O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay South, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Chairman. I welcome the Minister and Minister of State. I commend both of them for the great work they have done on ensuring we got children back to national and secondary schools. When the history of the pandemic is written, it will be recognised that certain groups were disproportionately affected. One of them comprised schoolchildren.

Let me repeat a point that the Chairman made. Schools and principals are very pleased with the supports that have been put in place. I know that from speaking to them but also from the fact that I have not been communicated with by principals in the constituency complaining about a lack of support.

There is some confusion over close contacts. It might benefit Ministers if there were greater clarity on that issue. Unvaccinated schoolchildren who are close contacts and who are not displaying any symptoms should remain at school. They should go to school. We need to take into account that there are great benefits from having 92% of the population vaccinated. One benefit is such that we have to start prioritising and re-emphasising the importance of in-person school attendance.

I have a question for the Minister on CLASS, which I welcome wholeheartedly. Does she believe the scheme will ensure that children whose education was disrupted by not being at in-person school classes will not fall through the cracks, and that those who have fallen through the cracks will be able to lift them back out of it and into school learning?