The Government has been forced to abandon plans to reopen special schools and classes this week following safety concerns among staff unions.
Children with additional needs were due to return to the classroom tomorrow (Thursday).
Serious public health concerns raised by the The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation and Fórsa have led to all plans being postponed.
Minister for Education Norma Foley and Junior Minister Josepha Madigan last night announced that partially re-opening the schools will “regrettably not be possible owing to a lack of co-operation by key staff unions in the primary sector”.
The decision will affect over 23,000 children with special education needs – 4% of those who would attend during a full re-opening.
Minister Foley said: “It is hugely important to provide in-person learning to this vulnerable cohort of children, and I regret that that this has not been possible. The needs of this group of students are such that no-one should be in any doubt of the importance of this goal, and its urgency. We all understand how vulnerable these children are, and how much they need to be in school.
“The concerns and fears of teachers and SNAs have been well articulated, and I, along with my officials have listened carefully at every stage of this process. I have full confidence in our public health advice which, at all times, has underpinned our approach to keeping schools safe. This means that we know that with the appropriate measures in place, we can support the re-opening of special schools, special classes and in-person learning for certain children with special educational needs in mainstream schools.”