I propose to take Questions Nos. 330 and 331 together.
The Government has always been guided by public health advice in relation to what is safe in schools. Public health remain of the view that schools are low risk environments and that the infection prevention and control measures in place in school are effective.
The CMO has also made it very clear in his advices to Government which are published on gov.ie, that schools are low risk environments, with very little evidence of transmission within schools, and that the majority of infections of children and adolescents occurs outside the school setting.
Public Health have stated that the new variants of the disease do not change the infection prevention and control measures required in schools. Schools have been supported by a funding package of almost €650m to put in place and maintain these key infection control measures. Public Health advice is that compliance with these measures ensure that schools remain safe places for children and staff.
Schools have been advised that it is expected that they will continue to operate with the current infection prevention and control measures in place to support their safe operation during Covid-19 when they reopen in for the 2021/2022 school year. Schools will continue to be supported in terms of the additional resources necessary to provide for these measures.
Schools Covid-19 response plans are based on the Government’s Work Safely Protocol which reflects the most up to date public health advice for the workplace. It sets out the range of measures required to prevent the spread of Covid-19. These plans will be updated by the Department during the summer and will be available for schools in advance of reopening. It is not envisaged that there will be any updates that require schools to take action in advance of normal reopening.
The Department will undertake a communications campaign with parents and students/pupils in advance of school reopening to inform and remind them of the arrangements in place in schools operating during Covid-19. This will include specifically targeted information at new pupils entering primary and post-primary schools to ensure they are familiar with the new arrangements.
The Department will continue to work closely with all of the education partners and public health specialists so that schools will continue to be supported when they reopen for the 2021/2022 school year.