Schools to reopen on phased basis in February and early March

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to visit Kildare today

An Tanaiste, Leo Varadkar

Schools will reopen on a phased basis in February and early March, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said last night.

According to a report in today's Irish Independent a memo going to Cabinet today says consideration will be given to getting Leaving Cert students and children with special educational needs back to classes, but talks are on-going with the unions.

The staggered reopening would start with the return of children with special needs, followed by primary schools and exam years, Mr Varadkar said.

But he said it had to be done by agreement and would be subject to discussions with principals, unions and other representative groups.

“We want to discuss this with principals, unions, parents and students groups. It does have to be done by agreement, but we are very keen to start with children with additional needs, they need their education and some of them are regressing now which is very worrying,” he told RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live.

The Tánaiste said one of his “big regrets” from the first lockdown was that Ireland “didn’t do what other countries did and keep schools open for vulnerable children”.

Mr Varadkar said that because the new Covid-19 variant is more transmissible “we want to open schools not with one big bang but on a phased basis".

He would not put a figure on what the daily Covid case numbers would have to be to allow for schools to reopen, but said: “We are reasonably confident now that by the middle of February we will be down to daily case rates that were there when schools were fully open.”