Thursday, 18 February 2021
Department of Education and Skills
193. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills her plans for the phased reopening of schools; if the children of essential and front-line workers will be prioritised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9266/21]
194. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills when children can return to their classrooms, especially those in primary and secondary schools, given that many families are struggling with home schooling; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9288/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 193 and 194 together.
The Government has always been guided by public health advice in relation to what is safe in schools. NPHET remain of the view that schools are low risk environments but recognise there is a need to reduce societal activity and movement to curb the spread of the virus at this time.
My Department has agreed a plan with the relevant education stakeholders for the phased return to in-person learning for children in special schools and children in special classes in mainstream schools. This phased reopening commenced last Thursday 11th February with children in special schools returning on a 50 per cent minimum shared basis from that date. From Monday 22 February pupils and students in special classes will also return to school.
The full re-opening of our schools for all students remains a top priority for Government and my Department is focussing on the safe return of all pupils and students to school on a phased basis beginning in March.