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Schools to prioritise in person teaching for Leaving Cert and Junior Cert years

In the event that not enough teaching staff is available, schools are being advised to give Leaving Cert and Junior Cert year students and also students with special needs in-person instruction.

The Department of Education is issuing new guidance today that says schools should maximize in-person teaching and offer remote teaching to classes who can't attend classes in person.

Teachers' unions and school managers predict 15 to 20 percent of teachers will be absent on Thursday for Covid-19-related reasons. There is a shortage of 50 percent in some schools.

Classes in many cases might be asked to stay at home because there's no substitute cover for the coming days.

For children with special needs in both special schools and mainstream schools, the new department's guidance says schools should maximize in-person teaching.

Second-level schools are to try and make on-site education as much as possible for Leaving Cert and Junior Cert exam year classes. And fifth-year classes.

Students with special needs should also get in-person teaching. Therefore, transition-year students and first and second year students may have to study online if it's interrupted.

On Thursday, all schools are reopening after medical experts said there's no reason to keep them closed longer.

Norma Foley, Minister For Education, says public health officials reevaluated risk mitigation measures who confirmed they're okay.

Her office said they'd keep an eye on it and public health had agreed to look at medical-grade masks for teachers and contact tracing.

"There will be challenges ahead," Ms Foley said, but the pandemic has shown that students learn best in person.

Secondary School management bodies estimate that about 15-20% of staff will be absent on average 

TUI leader Michael Gillespie said there would be widespread disruptions.

He felt that there won't be enough substitutes to meet all the absences. There will be disruption to face-to-face learning, and principals will have to prioritize where face-to-face learning occurs. Students with special needs would be given priority here because they may be less able to benefit from online learning.

He warned that doing a blend of  remote and in-person teaching at the same time would be tough logistically.

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