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Covid-19 Pandemic

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 15 June 2021

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Questions (732, 733, 734)

Mark Ward

Question:

732. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Education the details of the requirements for teachers to wear masks in a primary school setting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30944/21]

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Mark Ward

Question:

733. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Education the exemptions for teachers not to have to wear masks in a primary school setting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30945/21]

View answer

Mark Ward

Question:

734. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Education the appeal process for teachers who have medical evidence prohibiting them from wearing masks in cases in which this has been overruled by an organisation (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30946/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 732, 733 and 734 together.

My Department has always been guided by public health advice in relation to the infection prevention and control measure appropriate for schools. At present it is a requirement for face coverings to be worn by teachers and staff in primary schools when a physical distance of two meters from other staff or children cannot be maintained.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has published advice on the use of face coverings in educational settings and is available here. Revised HPSC guidelines for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) published on 7 January 2021 recommended surgical grade masks for all SNAs.

Public health advice also provides that cloth face coverings should not be worn by any of the following groups:

- any person with difficulty breathing

- any person who is unable to remove the face-covering without assistance

- any person who has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing the face covering, for example persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, sensory concerns or tactile sensitivity.

As part of the risk mitigation measures in schools outlined in the ‘Framework Plan for phased return of primary school education’ , my Department has also confirmed that medical grade masks should also be provided for all teachers and SNAs in special schools and special classes and those staff by necessity that need to be in close and continued proximity with pupils with intimate care needs including School Bus Escorts. Schools may access the current PPE framework to procure supplies of medical grade masks.

Under the terms of the Sick Leave Scheme for teachers, an employer must refer a teacher to the Occupational Health Service (Medmark) where reasonable concerns exist as to the capacity of the teacher to undertake his/her duties in a manner that is safe.

Where a teacher is referred to Medmark by the employer for an independent medical assessment and where there is a difference of medical opinion between Medmark and the treating Doctor/Consultant on a teacher’s medical fitness for work, Medmark will consult with the treating Doctor/Consultant before providing final advice to the employer. If there is a specific need for an independent medical assessment, this can be facilitated through Medmark.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) keeps infection prevention and control measures, which include the wearing of masks under review on an ongoing basis.

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