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Minister Foley 'lacks leadership in school reopening roadmap'

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The minister has been under pressure to make herself available to discuss school re-opening with TDs and Senators

The minister has been under pressure to make herself available to discuss school re-opening with TDs and Senators

The minister has been under pressure to make herself available to discuss school re-opening with TDs and Senators

With two weeks to the return to school, parents and students with education anxieties are seeing "a lack of leadership" from the education minister and Government, Opposition parties have said.

Education Minister Norma Foley was urged to come before the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response to address unanswered questions and to explain how the calculated grades for the Leaving Cert would not turn into the same fiasco seen in British exam grades.

The Labour Party and Sinn Féin called for the publication of the underlying data setting out how calculated grades would be arrived at, including the algorithms involved and how disadvantaged schools would not be treated unfairly - as has been seen in England and Scotland.

Labour spokesperson for education Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said Minister Foley was now left with three options on a threatened descent into chaos and "whirlwind of upset" on publication of the Leaving Cert 'guesstimated' results.

"One is that she can delete the school profiling element and to produce grades without. If she were to do that, we would support her.

Measures

"Another option is to convince us that the system here is different to the UK. I wouldn't be sure that she can do that. Or thirdly, she can say that while what happens here is the same as the UK, that she has corrective measures ready to go."

Both Labour and Sinn Féin called for the calculation methodologies to be published, including any underlying algorithms.

"The same assurances that were given elsewhere have been given by the Minister," said Sinn Féin's spokesperson on education and skills, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire.

"We're taking that on trust. But I see no reason why the method shouldn't be published and why we shouldn't have transparency, especially when there's so much concern.

"Students deserve to know that there is transparency. There's no reason to keep people in the dark."

Mr Ó Ríordáin added: "You don't have a right to appeal your grade, which is important to recognise. You have a right to appeal the calculation, but not the grade.

"So we will have a situation on September 7 when chaos will ensue if people feel they have a college place in question. There is going to be a whirlwind of upset if this isn't sorted now, and it can be sorted now."

Mr Ó Laoghaire said publication of the means and basis of calculation would inform a discussion about what can happen next.

"We deserve to know why they have put so much confidence in it.

"I think there has been an absence of leadership right from the staff from the Department of Education.

"I do think it's unfortunate RTÉ and the media put in requests for interview and were told she wasn't available. I think that's regrettable."

On school transport, Mr Ó Laoghaire said people were very surprised that there was no talk of social distancing on buses.

"One of the biggest categories of people who are very concerned is parents of children who are at high risk, or parents themselves who are at high risk of contraction with school reopenings," he added.

"There seems to be very little planning. Guidance needs to be there for those students, and then and there needs to be a confidence for their parents."

Under the reopening roadmap, special education teachers will be "put from pillar to post" covering absences, breaks and remote learning, he warned.

"There aren't enough additional resources for remote learning or special education. The Minister needs to come forward and answer the questions, and they are numerous.

"She needs to be available. She needs to be showing leadership. There is an absence of leadership."