Pupils with special needs may be back in school next Thursday in the first phase of a staggered post-Christmas return.
ducation Minister Norma Foley, Junior Minister for Special Education Josepha Madigan and the education partners, including teacher unions, are working towards a return for these pupils on January 21.
The date is not set in stone but, after a meeting between the ministers and the education partners today, it was described as “shared ambition” and engagement will continue.
It covers at least 18,000 pupils in special schools and special classes – but schools may also bring back for children with special needs who attend mainstream schools but do not participate in special classes and other vulnerable children.
There is no date set yet for the return of 60,000 Leaving cert candidates ,who are also regarded as a priority group.
The general return to school, originally scheduled for January 6, has been delayed until February 1 – at the earliest – because of Covid infection rates.
But with the spread of the disease remaining at high levels in the community – and the more transmissible and increasingly dominant UK variant is now – there is now uncertainty even about that date.
The prioritisation of pupils with special needs comes after a week of intense negotiations seeking agreement on a re-opening schedule.
Ms Foley was due to address the Dáil around lunchtime on the outline of the deal .
Last week, Ms Foley announced plans for a partial re-opening of schools from January 11, to cater for about 18,000 pupils with special needs and 60,000Leavign Cert candidates.
But she was forced into a u-turn after teacher unions expressed health and safety concerns about going back to the classroom and said they not been consulted
There have been intense negotiations since, involving Ms Foley, Ms Madigan, their officials and the education partners, including unions.
Source: Irish News