24 February 2021
Yesterday the Government published the plan for the next phases of return to in-school
provision for students at both primary and post-primary level. These further phases
have been developed following continuous engagement with unions and other
education partners and ongoing engagement with the Department of Health and HSE
The Department of Health and the HSE have reaffirmed that schools in themselves are
low risk environments and that a gradual phased reopening can occur at this time.
Public health has reviewed the measures put in place to ensure safe operation of
schools and is satisfied that these infection prevention and control measures, when
rigorously adhered to, will keep the school community safe during this period.
There will be a period of time between each phase to assess the impact of reopening
on aspects of community transmission.
On Monday 1 March the first four classes at primary level – junior and senior
infants, first and second class – and final year Leaving Certificate students will
return to in-school provision. This phase will also see a return to full attendance
for children in special schools.
Monday 15 March is the target date for the return to in-school provision of the
rest of primary school children - third to sixth class students - and fifth year
Leaving Certificate students. This date will be reviewed during the period
following 1 March.
Monday 12 April, following the Easter break is the target date for the return to
in-school education for the rest of post-primary students - first to fourth year
Remote teaching and learning provision for students in each category will cease
once in-person teaching and learning provision commences for each group of
Safety is paramount in our schools, and all provision within schools will continue
according to public health advice developed for educational settings. The Department
will continue to fund and support as necessary infection prevention and control
measures in schools to ensure the safety of the school community.
Public Health in the HSE is fully committed to supporting schools. Schools teams that
have been put in place to support schools since October will support schools during the
phased return and beyond.
We all know of the hugely adverse consequences at individual, family and societal
level of not having in-person learning available to students. The safe return and
sustained safe re-opening of our schools is a key priority for Government.
I acknowledge that a phased re-opening is challenging for many people, with children
of different age groups in the same families returning at different times. The purpose of
managing this cautious phased return is to continue to limit the mobility of the
population and curb the spread of the virus.
I ask all parents to please review the symptoms of Covid-19, to ensure that children
with symptoms do not attend school and that all children know and understand the
procedures in place in school.
Please continue to abide by all social distancing guidance and stay home apart from
essential journeys. Parents can help schools by being individually responsible and not
lingering outside school at drop off and collection times. It is welcome that children will
see their friends in school, but please do not organise playdates or home visits.
We all understand how essential school reopening is and we need to give it the best
possible chance to get all students back as quickly as possible.
I would like to thank you, your families and school communities for continued
adherence to the guidelines and for helping us all to curb the spread of the virus. I wish
all students and staff a safe return to in-person learning over the coming weeks.
You may find the below useful:
Links to posters and videos here: https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/5572b-back-toschool-advice-for-parents-students-and-families/
Norma Foley, TD
Minister for Education