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Covid-19 Pandemic

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 7 December 2021

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Questions (314)

Seán Sherlock


314. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Education if matters raised in correspondence by a person (details supplied) in relation to track and trace and HEPA filters in schools will be examined. [60039/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Ensuring that schools can operate safely has been a key priority for me as Minister for Education. My Department has always been guided by public health advice in relation to appropriate Covid-19 infection prevention and control measures in place in schools. These measures protect students, their parents and school staff and are very effective.

As of the 27th September 2021, a decision was taken by Government in line with recommendations from NPHET to cease routine contact tracing of asymptomatic close contacts in children older than 3 months to under 13 years outside of the household setting, including those attending primary educational and childcare settings.

If there are particular outbreaks of concern in educational facilities, Public Health teams will continue to provide support to schools should it be required and testing will remain available more broadly to children should it be required on public health or clinical grounds or following a Public Health Risk Assessment (PHRA), especially in special education settings.

Managing ventilation is also an important part of the measures to keep our schools safe. Updated guidance for schools on Practical Steps for the Deployment of Good Ventilation Practices in Schools was provided at the end of May following the work of an expert group that carefully considered the role of ventilation in managing COVID-19. The Departments Guidance is clear that where the recommended measures have been undertaken, and poor ventilation continues to exist in a particular room, air cleaners may be considered as an additional measure in conjunction with other methods of ventilation that are available. The guidance outlines that Carbon Dioxide (CO2 ) monitors, which were provided to schools, can play a part in providing a useful general indication that rooms may not be adequately ventilated.

My Department has recently implemented a range of measures to address the supply of substitute teacher in primary schools, including a significant increase in teachers on the primary school supply panels, postponing CPD for teachers and, with the cooperation of the HEIs and the Teaching Council, supporting the availability of student teachers to undertake substitute work.

Information on these and other measures has been communicated to primary schools in Circular 50/2021 COVID-19 (Operational Supports for primary schools for 2021/2022) and Information Note SD 0001/2021 (Further supplementary measures to increase the availability of substitute teachers for recognised primary schools – 2021/2022 school year )

The infection prevention and control measures in place in schools have worked very effectively to prevent and control Covid-19 in schools. The Department will continue to work closely with public health officials and the education stakeholders in respect of the safe operation of schools during Covid-19.