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Covid-19 survey finds health and access to technology the main worries for teachers

Post-primary and further education teachers do not believe students have access to the required tech to continue with remote learning should schools be required to close due to Covid-19.

Many teachers also have ‘significant concerns’ around their own health, as well as their families, with many reporting their own underlying issues, or living with someone who has underlying issues, a new survey has found.

The Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) survey of more than 1,500 of its members, finds the majority of teachers (52%) who took part do not believe most students have the required ICT facilities to participate in remote learning. 

A further 28% of the teachers said they were not satisfied they themselves have the required facilities, while one-third said they do not believe that broadband of sufficient quality is available in their school to support remote learning.

One in five of the teachers surveyed reported a health worry due to Covid-19. Almost a third (31%) share a household with somebody who has underlying medical issues that make them vulnerable to the virus, while one in 10 (11%) share a home with someone over the age of 70.

Close to one-third (30%) said they considered leaving the teaching profession or retiring early as a result of Covid-19. The vast majority (96%) think that accelerated or rapid Covid-19 testing for students, teachers, and other staff is essential to limit disruption over the coming months. 

The vast majority (95%) also believe there has been an increase in their workload as a result of adapting classes for the new Covid environment, and that their work was more difficult compared to 12 months ago. 

"The closure of schools in March highlighted significant deficits in terms of ICT facilities around the country," said Martin Marjoram, TUI president. "These deficits must now be addressed so that the most vulnerable students do not lose out should additional remote learning be required at any point." 

The survey also highlights the concerns of teachers around their own health, he added. "Of particular concern is the uncertainty around the definition of close contacts in schools. A lack of consistency and clarity in this regard is causing severe stress and anxiety." 

"The situation must be urgently reviewed so that school staff have trust in the system and understand the decision-making process."

Meanwhile, the North Kerry school instructed to reopen by the Department of Education after its principal made a decision to close due to an increase in Covid-19 cases says it is continuing to work with the HSE. 

Seven confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported in Tarbert Comprehensive School within a week, prompting its principal Richard Prendiville to announce he was closing the school. 

However, he was later instructed by the Department of Education to reopen, with just the individually affected students to remain out. Yesterday, the school issued a statement, saying it was in consultation with the HSE and following HSE protocols. 

"All necessary precautions have been taken to prevent any further exposure to staff or students. The school has been cleaned and disinfected and continues to be on a daily basis." It is understood that many parents kept their children at home on Wednesday, and support Mr. Prendiville for his original decision to close the school.