SDLP Education Spokesperson Daniel McCrossan has said DUP Education Minister Michelle McIlveen’s failure to show leadership around Covid-19 has put schools in an impossible position.
Mr McCrossan was speaking as schools reopen this week, amidst a spike in cases of the Omicron variant.
Mrs McIlveen has confirmed she has not spoken to the Educational Practitioners Group before the start of the new school term. The group has not met in nearly six weeks and only once in the past 12.
The West Tyrone MLA said:
“We have seen throughout the coronavirus pandemic how successive DUP Education Ministers’ failure to act to the changing situation around Covid-19 has left schools abandoned, as they work to allow children to continue their education, while protecting them from this virus. This has been flagged up by me, teaching unions and many principals, teachers and parents across the country.
“This morning, the Minister had the opportunity to provide certainty for parents, pupils and teachers. Instead she gave the impression of not being on top of her brief. Our children deserve better than this.
“There was silence from the Minister over the Christmas break, whilst school leaders were busy planning for how to manage the rapidly changing Covid-19 situation as Omicron spread throughout our community. Schools were already at breaking point and many have raised these issues with the Minister to make improvements and put a plan in place for reopening – still nothing was done.
“The spread of Omicron is going to have serious consequences for our schools, we will see teachers, staff and pupils forced to isolate and that will have a huge knock-on effect. We could have put measures in place to address this if Minister McIlveen had listened to the concerns that were repeatedly put to her and done her job. She has let our entire school staff, parents and pupils down and I will continue to push for action and highlight the concerns of our school community at every opportunity.”