Tracy McElhinney.

Labours Trim-based representative, Tracy McElhinney has urged education minister Norma Foley to pull out all the stops and support all those involved as schools reopened earlier today.

She told Meath Live, “Pupils,  teachers, SNAs, and other school staff all need support over the next few days and weeks

“I know from personal experience as someone working in a school and as a mother of school pupils, how anxious everyone is to have a safe and successful start to the new school term”, she said.

“Reopening schools is hugely important to the wellbeing of all children. We don’t want a re-run of last year with the most vulnerable children in the coldest months having to stay at home to be “safe”, often with no access to technology or relying on phones to continue their education.”

“However, the government has consistently failed to listen to or engage with the school communities and the unions that protect all children. Education has been a last thought for the government. They were slow off the mark on antigen testing advice, they did not look to provide HEPA filters in time and they did not engage with or listen to the sector when they warned about the substitution crisis.”

“School communities and parents deserve to know exactly what supports and resources will be in place in schools tomorrow. It’s disappointing to hear the Minister say that higher grade medical masks will not be made available free of charge but instead will have to come from the capitation grant. This is deeply cynical.”

“The Minister is asking schools to choose between fixing structural issues in the building or the health and safety of staff. We saw the same approach with HEPA filters and I hope we see a u-turn on the mask decision before tomorrow morning.”

“Children need to be at school and staff, teachers, and SNAs need to be safe at work. The last-minute panic is unfair on everyone when we knew of the potential impact of the new variant before schools closed in December. Rather than constant firefighting in the education sector, we need to see leadership from the Minister and her Department.”