Dáil debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Covid-19: New Measures: Statements


6:57 pm

Photo of Richard O'DonoghueRichard O'Donoghue (Limerick County, Independent)

Seven or eight months ago, when we were in the convention centre, I was the first Deputy to hand over a booklet to the Government and to the head of the Oireachtas about purifier air systems for schools. I asked for some of them to be put into Leinster House so we could return to this Chamber. I was the first person to do this and I have not yet received any feedback from the Government or the Oireachtas on those machines. Now in some schools, temperatures have gone down to 7°C or 8°C in classrooms because of ventilation. Eight months ago, I brought this to the Government's attention and nobody listened. Now every Deputy in the House is talking about ventilation systems for schools. Eight months ago, the man from Limerick told the Government about this and gave it the booklet for it and now everyone in the House is on about purifying air systems for schools. More than one concerned teacher contacted me last week. There are schools that do not have the adequate area for students to social distance so the teenagers in secondary school are being asked to leave the school and stand in different pods around the school during their breaks.

Some of them are out on wet grass and are then asked to come back into school and sit down with wet feet. They are already cold but the windows are open to ventilate the building such that the school is at only eight or nine degrees. I have also been told of schools that have closed their canteens because there is not enough room to allow for proper distancing when students are going in and out for their breaks. Vulnerable children are doing without food because of circumstances at home but schools have closed their canteens because of Covid guidelines.

I ask the Minister for Health and the Minister for Education to talk about the mental health of leaving certificate students who are afraid because they have missed so much time in school and their exams are coming up shortly. Students who were in third year when Covid struck are now in leaving certificate year but have never sat a State exam because of predicted grades. There are massive mental health implications, not only for the students but also for the teachers. Teachers are telling students they are so far behind because they have missed school time over Covid and over being close contacts. Parents are at the end of their tether worrying about their children. Children are leaving school and going to after-school study six and seven days a week to try to catch up because they have been told they are so far behind.

The Government must make a decision on predicted grades now. It must make a decision now because this year's students are trying to compete with those who got predicted grades. This is a mental health issue. It concerns the mental health of our teachers and students and will be with us for years to come. The knock-on effect is that third years have not sat State exams. This will be a mental health problem for years to come. I ask the Minister for Health to discuss predicted grades with the Minister for Education for the sake of mental health.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.