If I were the Minister for Education...

Here is my project to suggest ways for our education system to be the best it can be. I have a few ideas, which I’d love help fleshing out.

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The following message is doing the rounds so in case you haven't seen it, I'm pasting it here. I'll add my own thoughts to the comments:

My experience of having our first positive Covid case

Dear Colleagues,

I have decided to write this message to you, although the sun is shining and perhaps wiser for me personally to take a walk instead. However, I thought it essential that I share my experience this week….

On Tuesday, a parent contacted the office to inform us that their child had a positive Covid test. One of our secretaries thanked her for informing us, but assured the parent it would in fact be the HSE that would be in touch with them and indeed any close contacts, etc. etc.

I decided to call the IPPN office and was advised to contact the regional HSE helpline so as to alert them to the case and hopefully ‘it would get moved along quicker’. I also asked if IPPN had received feedback from other schools and was reassured by the person’s positive response to my question, despite the contrary views expressed on this network by some principals. So I started the process with hope and relative calmness…

I rang the HSE helpdesk and was told that someone would ring me back. Later, at home, I got a call from a doctor from the helpline who quickly deemed that only the POD should be sent home and that the other PODS and class teacher were ‘casual’ rather the ‘close’ contacts. No questions were asked about the size of the classroom, the closeness of the pods from one another. It was just confirm that there was a bubble and pod system in place. I have since this evening received an apology from the HSE Regional Centre stating that today their team has now created questions to ask principals in order to further contextualise each case presenting.

I was asked to send in the names of the close contacts (other pod members) on an incredibly cumbersome excel spreadsheet they sent me. I asked when would these parents be contacted and could they guarantee that they would be before the next school day. They informed me by phone and later by email that it could take up to 24 hours to make initial contact.

After further contact, where they said it may well be 48 hours, I was left with no option but to call the parents affected myself or otherwise they would return to school the next day. In fact, it took over 48 hours for the HSE to make initial contact, after a further three phone calls from me, asking why it was taking so long. Each time, a nice person on the end of the line, with an apology and saying they needed more resources….

I would like to thank Pairic from IPPN and John Boyle from INTO for both returning my call most promptly and listening to my story.

However, I have so many concerns and questions that remain unanswered, the following being the most important?
- Where is the fast track testing service for staff and children we were promised before we returned to school?
- Why does the HSA return to work form specify clearly what a close contact is (i.e. within 2 metres, for more than 15 mins, on one given day) but DES Return to work form leaves this out?
- How, on the one hand, are we told by the HSE to not get involved with contacting close contacts and by another arm of the HSE specifically asking us to do so?
- How can a class teacher be deemed a casual contact and indeed the other PODS in the room without a thorough and comprehensive risk assessment by a health expert?
- When will the IPPN and the INTO say publicly ‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH’ and prioritise our safety? If the HSE can’t keep us safe, why are we open? It seems that it is much easier to be deemed a close contact outside of a school context than within….the HSE website proves this point perfectly in their section on contacts. How can the bodies we pay to represent us allow this to continue?
- Do we have to wait for a pupil or staff member or a close relative to die before those in power admit that schools are indeed being treated entirely different from other sectors?

This is my first ever email of this type….just not me normally. I also contacted TDs for the first time in my life too to express my complete disbelief in this week’s events.

I am asking you, to not do what I have done so often on this network to read and move on to the next ‘fire to be put out’ – IF YOU AGREE WITH THIS EMAIL, PLEASE PRESS REPLY AND INSERT A WORD OR TWO, SO OTHER PRINCIPALS AND SCHOOL COMMUNITIES WON’T HAVE TO GO THROUGH THIS AND IPPN HEAD OFFICE WILL CLEARLY HEAR THIS IS THE MOST SERIOUS OF ISSUES….

I implore IPPN to not get side tracked by visiting inspectors dressed up as HSA inspectors and speak out and ACT about this matter….without a comprehensive test and tracing system , we are in serious trouble.

I fully understand the HSE and DES have created many of these issues but the bodies that represent us have allowed it unfold as it is the IPPN and INTO that sit at the table with the DES and HSE and not the individual principal, teacher, SNA, secretary or pupil.

Our politicians and others want schools back at all costs…..my worry, after these few days, is at what cost?

Finally, one positive from the week, the parents I dealt with and my school colleagues were all exceptional in their understanding and support.
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4 hours ago

Comment on Facebook 111796322180076_4958814574144869

Thank you. So so disappointed in the system. We had a positive case. Whole class and teacher tested and all isolated for the 14 days. I thought it was going great. But that case was very early. Looks like they’ve been inundated and aren’t bothering anymore 😫

Level 5 action for childcare, schools and higher Ed facilities speaks volumes

Any parent or teacher who has a vulnerable child in school, or who is themself vulnerable, or indeed who is living with a vulnerable person, needs to understand that this is currently how things are playing out. You may not be informed if your child sits near somebody who contracts COVID19. You may not be informed if you have been teaching a child who contracts COVID19. This is in contravention of ECDC guidelines and completely unfair.

It is important that is information is shared far & wide. Principals are under intense pressure. Teachers are going to be like lambs to the slaughter after the ASTI announced that they are balloting. People need to know why. Where is the INTO in all of this.

Worrying reading from a parent of a child with underlying conditions. I have expressed to teacher that I am informed of any case within the classroom room but also any sibling of someone from our classroom so I can make my own decision whether to keep my child at home not that of the HSE. The principal is ringing me Monday. I hope he has sense to meet my request.

Thank you to the Principal who has taken the time to write and share this. All Patron Bodies and all Boards of Management who have a statutory Duty if Care please consider that you have , now, been warned .

Well done for making the decision to contact parents yourself. I have heard of a similar situation at a creche in Athenry this week

Oh God. Principals have such a difficult lonely job at the worst of times. This is awful

Thank you for sharing. With all do respect to the HSE staff in this situation someone with teaching experience who has worked in a school needs to work alongside the HSE to provide guidance to schools.

If there is a positive case within a classroom, ALL children and adults in that classroom must be considered close contacts. This principal highlights the huge faults with the current system. Think it could be time for us to start posting photos (back of kids' heads) of what our classrooms look like with the children in them as I'd say many people who don't work in schools have no idea of how many people there are in small rooms where there is no hope of staying one metre never mind two away from each other.

This doesn't surprise me. The ASTI are going to ballot for strike action. It's really tough out there, stay safe everyone.

Thank you for sharing this and highlighting this.

It’s unfortunate that schools are being used as collateral damage in this pandemic... this government clearly thinks that their doing an exceptional job just because the schools are open and being kept open! I know the importance of school and it’s lovely to be back but not risking the health and safety of everyone involved which they are doing! The union has done nothing to support us during this pandemic... imagine living in a country with a pandemic raging across the world and said country not even attempting to reducing class sizes! Thank you to the poster for really highlighting the issue we’ve all known existed!

Mass emailing to INTO and a process of remote learning must be put in place now. No room to wait on others the staff must act themselves.

INTO need to follow ASTI in balloting members for industrial action. Its absolutely shocking what we are putting up with.

Thought for sure that at least the bubble and associated teachers would be deemed close contacts .... extremely concerning to read this

Thanks for highlighting this

Jenny Cusack

Cathal FitzGerald

Janet Lynch assume you’ve seen this?

Wow! V disappointing ... thanks for sharing.

Anyway, what strikes me from this post is the further difficulties that principals face when there is a positive case of COVID19 in their school. It seems that the HSE hotline is asking terribly irresponsibly in this case. I have heard very mixed reviews of the service - some good, some bad. What I do know is that cases are continuing to rise in schools, as expected, and it looks like keeping schools open is going to be difficult.

Schools and childcare are being grouped together & something similar happened at a crèche in Galway during the week. The owner was on the radio speaking about the lack of support from the HSE following a positive covid test at her childcare facility. Here’s a link to the statement she put up about it www.facebook.com/537244366339923/posts/3364412123623119/?extid=FlC0hHDMgexgVG05&d=n This is unacceptably dangerous and negligent.

Just wondering what happened when the news came out between parents in the class, did other parents keep children from the bubble at home? How is this poor teacher supposed to gonabout their daily life?

We all have people in our lives who are precious and vulnerable. The is reckless behaviour. The INTO have been very quiet since March. Its time they did what we are paying them to do

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It's Friday at 5:59pm. It must be time for... link.chtbl.com/j-Vu9CJU

This week I finish reviewing the good, the bad, and the Flat Out Busy of lockdown and the reopening of schools.
#edchatie
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1 day ago

Its Friday at 5:59pm. It must be time for... https://link.chtbl.com/j-Vu9CJU 

This week I finish reviewing the good, the bad, and the Flat Out Busy of lockdown and the reopening of schools.
#edchatie

😂😂😂😂😂😂 😭FIVE LEVEL CORONAVIRUS PLAN
No surprise - Schools down at the bottom
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4 days ago

😂😂😂😂😂😂 😭

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