By Katie Ward
With covid-19 cases surpassing 5,000 per day, many teachers are concerned about how the number of cases could affect their health.
Student primary school teacher, Niamh Daly, said ‘I am quite worried about returning to placement. The cases in schools are so high at the moment, and I know lots of teachers who have gotten Covid in school.’
‘I think the government needs to recognise that schools are not safe environments in terms of spreading Covid. Lots of precautions are being taken in schools in terms of PPE, sanitisation routines and ventilation However, it is clear that there are still improvements that could be made in these areas’ she added.
The Government has implemented mandatory guidelines that children aged nine and older must wear masks while in school. Primary school teacher, Maeve O’Donnell* (name changed to protect identity), from Dublin said: “I do not think it will make much of a difference. Children play and mix in the yard and it’s hard enough to get them to keep coats on outside. I think masks would be hard.”
“If it helps the spread of the virus, it will be great but that will only work if children are wearing them properly, which I think will be hard to police.”
New restrictions announced 3 December states that a maximum of four households should mix. O’Donnell said: “I feel pressure around having many close contacts. I am a young teacher, and it is my first year teaching full time. However, I would like to keep some sort of a social life, but it has been difficult in the pandemic. I have been trying to limit my number of contacts by seeing the same people and frequent antigen testing.”
Daly was of a similar mindset. “At the moment I am still in college, so I am not really able to cut my social contacts. We have big lectures with up to 400 people. From next week, I will cut my social contacts down for when I start teaching again.”
Public health advice states that children and teachers who have any symptoms of Covid-19 should isolate at home and get a PCR test.
“I know many teachers where they would have the same guilt around calling in sick as myself. It is a profession where a lot of the time calling in sick isn’t an option for a lot of people. The expectation has been that teachers come in no matter what. Covid has changed how they expect us to react to being sick, but I don’t think the mentality has caught up,” said O’Donnell.
Schools all over Ireland are struggling with a teacher shortage due to Covid-19 and there is a lack of substitute teachers available. Fellow EU state Belgium closed schools a week early in the hope to bring down cases. “It is hard to know if we will follow in the same footsteps’ said Daly ‘I hope we don’t but with the rising case numbers everything is up in the air.”