Reopening Education Must Not Put Staff And Students At Risk

Teachers and lecturers in People Before Profit support the reopening of education as long as its safe and does not put pupils and staff at risk.

We are holding an online public meeting on Tuesday July 21st at 7pm to discuss this important issue.

Like other frontline workers, teachers and lecturers have gone the extra mile to keep education going. Without any planning or training teachers moved online to support their students. The current attacks on teachers do not recognise that the main impediment to a safe return to education is the failure of the state to invest in making schools safe for teachers, students, their families and their communities.

People Before Profit believes the current crisis has exposed the inadequate funding of our education system. A major programme of investment is needed to allow our schools to open safely.

  1. Clear national guidelines and protocols must be published and agreed with unions before schools/colleges open. Risk assessments must be completed, by qualified people, on all aspects of physical infrastructure and provides to  Safety Reps. Unions must provide full support to those who refuse to work in unsafe conditions.
  2. Social distancing must continue to apply at the same level as for the rest of society. As necessary schools/colleges should be reconfigured to facilitate social distancing.
  3. A robust cleaning regime should be in place with on-site cleaners in very school/college.  PPE must be provided as necessary. Hand sanitisers must be placed in every classroom.
  4. School accommodation must be expanded with the  provision of temporary prefabs where suitable, the repurposing of  halls and utilising spare capacity in the system such as closed school buildings. We demand the temporary use of community centres, hotels,  church halls etc as identified by school staff on the ground.
  5. The pupil/teacher ratio must be reduced and all temporary teachers made permanent. Staffing levels must increase.
  6. A campaign similar to On Call for Ireland to recruit teachers and encourage teachers to return from abroad. This requires, in the first instance, the abolition of the two-tier pay system in the South.
  7. Additional supports for students with additional needs must be put in place.
  8. Staff and students who are vulnerable must have the right to stay at home.

Unions must now stand up against the bullying of teachers and the undermining narrative of the state which seeks to divide teachers from parents. This is being done at the behest of business who want to pretend that everything is back to business as usual. They must build serious campaign with students and parents to demand the investment we all need to allow our school to reopen safely. This campaign should start with mass online meetings for members when the authorities publish their plans for reopening.

We have produced a longer document which we will launch at the meeting tomorrow, Tuesday 21st July, 2020. It can be read here

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