Principals say "clear, consistent and concise" guidance needed on school mask requirements
"We all have the same aim – to keep schools as safe as possible."
The Irish Primary Principals Network has criticised the Department of Education's handling of the new mask-wearing requirements in classrooms of third class up.
Chief Executive Padraig Clerkin said "clear, consistent and concise" guidance for school communities was needed regarding the requirement for students from third class up to wear face coverings in school.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland, Mr Clerkin said the Department and public health officials should have met with relevant school partners prior to introducing the new mask-wearing restrictions at such short notice on Tuesday evening.
He added that all parties should have sat around a table “to thrash out” the issues surrounding Covid-19 in schools during what he described as a challenging time for principals, school boards, teachers, children and their parents.
“We all have the same aim – to keep schools as safe as possible. The key thing is to have access to advice on public health,” he said.
Mr Clerkin also claimed that it was taking up to 24 hours for principals to get an answer after calling support phone lines for advice.
“That’s not acceptable if we want to keep schools open,” he said, revealing that the IPPN’s phone lines were three to four times busier than usual on Wednesday due to the number of calls from principals seeking guidance on the mask requirements.
School communities are eagerly awaiting the Department's sharing of Frequently Asked Questions, which Mr Clerkin said needs to be issued as soon as possible. “We want clear, consistent and concise information,” he stated.
Wednesday marked the first day of face coverings being required in primary schools since the pandemic began after the measure was announced Tuesday evening.
Mr Clerkin says reports from Wednesday indicated that most parents were supportive of the measure, but schools need further guidance from officials on how to deal with parents who do not want their children to wear masks.