SPECIAL needs assistants are set to return to classrooms on a phased basis if a range of Covid-19 safety measures are rolled out.
heir union Fórsa today set out the actions it says are necessary to make classrooms and other school areas safe, including reduced or staggered attendance at first.
It said it would advise special needs assistants to cooperate with the phased resumption of in-school services if the Department of Education agrees to progress the measures.
The union said in a statement it accepts all measures cannot be put in place right away, but wants immediate action on those that can and concrete proposals for the rest.
Among the measures listed in a new position paper drawn up by the union are a Nphet assessment of staff and student safety, with reference to testing data.
It also wants prioritisation of school staff for vaccination and serial school-based testing like that in place for essential workers in health, social care and the meat industry.
Fórsa head of education Andy Pike called on the Government to act on the measures to speed the resumption of services to students with special educational needs.
He said they would build confidence in the safety of classrooms among staff, students and parents.
“The official position is that schools are safe places, even as we are at the peak of transmission of the virus,” he said.
“Whilst additional mitigation measures have been in place in schools since August, many staff do not have full confidence that schools are safe places to work and study.
“We are calling on the Department of Education and individual schools to work with us to rebuild confidence and start the resumption of school-based special education needs services as quickly and safely as possible,” he said.
Four advocacy organisations for students with additional needs and their carers welcomed Fórsa’s announcement.
In a joint statement, Down Syndrome Ireland, Inclusion Ireland, AsIAm and Family Carers Ireland said it was a significant step in the right direction but there are more hurdles to clear.
“Today’s announcement is a positive signal, and the onus is now on the Government to re-double their efforts to clear the remaining obstacles standing in the way of re-opening schools for students with special educational needs,” said the statement.
It said parents need a clear timeframe on when they can expect in-school services to resume.
Source: Irish News