Create a register of teachers willing to go into classroom - O'Reilly

Debate

The Minister for Education is being urged to create a Register of Teachers who are willing and able to return to the classroom to teach students with special needs.

The Cathaoirleach of Cavan County Council, Cllr Sarah O'Reilly, is making the call to Minister Norma Foley after the government was yesterday forced to abandon its plans to get students with special needs back into classrooms from today (Thursday).

“The Taoiseach stated in the Dáil yesterday that we want opposition parties to provide practical solutions to the impasse that has paralysed the Special Education system. Well I have received communications from a number of teachers who want to and are in a position to return to work in Special Education Schools now.

"They have told me that there are others who have weighed up the risks and benefits and have decided that it is something that they wish to do. This message is being lost in the antagonistic battle between the Minister for Education and the Unions,” said the Aontú representative.

“A register of these teachers state-wide, countywide or even in schools could be a starting point. If two teachers per school returned, it would allow up to four of the most vulnerable students to gain access to vital and much needed education. Families are in crisis due to the collapse of education provision for children with additional needs. We must do what we can to solve this now,” said Cllr O'Reilly.

Her comments follow a statement from the Department of Education yesterday saying it was "regrettable that after unprecedented engagement with primary and special education stakeholders, a shared objective that would allow children with special educational needs return to in-school learning, could not be reached".

The two unions involved, the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) and Fórsa, decided not to support the Government plan.

Following meetings of their executives, the two unions said efforts to reassure school staff that it was safe for schools to open limited services to students had failed.

The department said its efforts had included consistent, frequent and ongoing engagement at ministerial and official level with education partners including teacher and SNA unions over the last two weeks.

It said Minister Foley and her officials had listened closely to the issues raised and that in a webinar for frontline education staff Dr Ronan Glynn had reaffirmed clearly that schools with risk mitigation measures in place provide a safe environment for staff and students.

Both the Department of Education and the two unions have said they want to continue with further engagement with a view to reopening schools.

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