Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education & Skills Thomas Byrne has welcomed comments from the Taoiseach that the government plans to reopen primary and secondary schools in August.

He says his party will support efforts to ensure that schools can reopen on a phased basis at the end of the summer.

Deputy Byrne said, “The last two months have proved difficult for pupils, parents and teachers alike. The ongoing school closures impact not just on the education of about 930,000 students across primary and secondary school, but also on their mental health. There is strong evidence that students who experience a gap in their education experience long term impacts on development and progress and this needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.

“While distance learning has been necessary in the face of the ongoing global pandemic, it proves problematic in the long term. I have been calling for efforts to be made to return to the status quo as soon as is possible for a number of weeks now.

“Issues such as the introduction of measures to support social distancing for primary and special schools are likely to be particularly difficult and will require detailed consideration. The Minister raised the possibility of blended learning, and while this may be required in some cases, we believe that a return to the full school experience must take place as soon as it is safe to do so. The recruitment of additional teachers may also be necessary.

“The Department should also bring in international expertise to support its work and ensure the best possible outcomes for our students and teachers”, concluded Deputy Byrne.