Tá na scoileanna druidte ó 13 Márta agus tá tuismitheoirí, páistí agus múinteoirí fágtha sa dorchadas ó thaobh na bpleananna don todhchaí agus do Mheán Fómhair. Cuireadh moill ar fhoilsiú na bpleananna seo arís agus arís. Rinne an t-iar-Rialtas agus an t-iar-Aire praiseach dóibh agus anois nílimid ag feiceáil nó ag cloisteáil aon rud ón Aire úr. Schools have been closed since 13 March. Parents, teachers and students have been left in the dark ever since. We have had delay after delay. The previous Government made a mess of things. We had promises and commitments from the previous Minister that a comprehensive roadmap for the reopening of schools would be published. He changed his mind on numerous occasions. The plan never emerged. It is more of the same under the new Minister. No plan has materialised.
We are just over four weeks from the traditional date of reopening schools and as it stands, schools, parents, students, school transport operators and we in the Dáil do not know what is happening. I suspect that on the Tánaiste's side of the House, the Government does not know what is happening either, based on the silence from the Minister for Education and Skills so far. Tens of thousands of parents have no idea how their children are going back to school in September. I have no idea how my four kids are going back to school in September. My wife is a teacher and my three sisters are teachers. Like tens of thousands of other teachers, they do not know how they are going back to school in September. They deserve clarity from the State, along with the thousands of other ancillary support staff in our education system across the country. By the time the Government talks about publishing its plan, we may be just three weeks from reopening schools.
I get that some of this is complex. I understand and appreciate that. However, some of it is not. We know that some of it is quite straightforward. We know that we will need additional teachers and that more money will be needed. We know that we need more space. We know that we will need increased investment in cleaning, hygiene and other measures. We know that children will need buses to get to and from school, and we know that other children with additional needs will need to be catered for in this environment.
The reality is that parents are worried, stressed out and anxious with regard to this. At this time, as is the norm, they are getting things together such as school uniforms, about which there are mixed signals about whether they will be needed or not, schoolbags and so on. They are being contacted by Bus Éireann to tell them they now need to start paying fees for school transport, not knowing how school transport will operate. They are being asked to pay for school books in the school. Many parents who I am speaking to simply do not have confidence that this Government has the ability to get their kids back to school in September in a safe way. I ask the Tánaiste to reassure them and to give us a commitment that all children will return to school for five days each week from September. Will he tell us how many extra teachers are to be hired and when recruitment will start? Will he give some indication about what is happening? Parents, students, teachers and school management need answers.