The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU) has expressed serious apprehension about the continuation of schooling during Level 5 without improved measures to support student safety, wellbeing, and learning.
ISSU is calling on the Department of Education and Skills and the Health Service Executive to provide more practical and robust measures to ensure the safe and sustainable continuation of schooling.
ISSU is fully aware that the negative impact felt by young people in previous school closures was exponential, and that a return to previous full closures could negatively affect students again.
However, ISSU is also fully aware of the view that the contact tracing mechanism implemented for schools is inadequate. There are reports of delays in the assessment of transmission in a school, delays in communication of cases/close contacts, and dissatisfaction over what is deemed to be a close contact.
The noted deficiencies have increased student anxiety and fear, and are putting a substantial strain on student wellbeing. With the decision taken to keep schools open during Level 5, immediate priority must be given to fixing the defects in contact tracing within schools.
ISSU has additional concerns around the continuity of learning for students who are medically vulnerable or have immediate family members at high risk, and who must isolate at home due to being confirmed as a positive case or as a close contact.
Online Learning Strategy
ISSU calls on the Department of Education and Skills (DES) to release an official online learning strategy, outlining the appropriate measures required for implementation by schools to enable the effective continuation of learning. Students must not be penalised for being unable to attend school due to health concerns or isolation required during a pandemic.
ISSU President Reuban Murray commented;
“This is a terribly stressful time for students and there is a wide variety of issues that need to be tackled.
“The close contact definition for students currently means that even if a student has sat in a classroom all day next to someone who is a positive case, that student is not to be deemed a close contact.
“Students are being over-assessed. They are being told that now there will be exams every month and these grades will be used if calculated grades are implemented again. Now every class test is a Leaving Cert exam for these students. This is not sustainable.
“Most importantly, we have to truly establish if schools are safe. We need an urgent review of the safety measures in schools and complete assurance by epidemiologists that schools are safe – not that ‘they are not key drivers for infection’.
“We need to know if they are safe.”
SOURCE: Materials provided by ISSU
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