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29 Nov 2021

'Covid is crushing our school communities': Kildare councillor criticises Minister for Education Norma Foley

'Covid is crushing our school communities': Kildare councillor criticises Minister for Education

Pic: Minister for Education Norma Foley

A Kildare councillor has criticised Minister for Education Norma Foley; specifically claiming that COVID-19 is "crushing" the nation's school communities.

Social Democrats (SD) Cllr Chris Pender shares his sentiments with his party colleague Gary Gannon TD, who recently said that Minister Foley "is missing in action once again, as schools struggle to cope with a significant increase in the incidence of covid."

The Newbridge politician said in a statement: "The pressure of covid is crushing our school communities: they are battling the illness in the classrooms and scrambling to find substitute Teachers, exacerbated by the Department's lack of leadership and management."

"Where has the Minister of Education gone? Antigen testing in schools was promised months ago, but there is still no word on when the government will implement it."

"Meanwhile, little has been done to address the current school substitute dilemma."

Cllr Pender continued: "The government has stated repeatedly that keeping schools open is a priority, and it should be.

"However, it refuses to provide schools with the tools they need to do so securely: close contacts of confirmed cases must be identified quickly if schools are to withstand this latest spike of Covid.

"This cannot be done in the absence of an antigen testing program.

"'We are all aware that time is of the essence when dealing with a virus that is spreading rapidly in the community...' so, how come the Minister and her Dept haven't learned this lesson?"

"In March – eight months ago – an expert group convened by the State's main scientific advisor, Mark Ferguson, advised antigen testing in schools.

Since at least July, the ECDC has advocated antigen testing in schools, (yet) despite this, we still have no idea when this initiative will begin.

He concluded his statement by saying: "This is insufficient... it's past time for the Minister to take command and show some leadership."

Yesterday, Cllr Pender hit out at the presence of litter in his hometown, and called on Kildare County Council to implement a deposit return scheme there.

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