Teachers’ Union calls for Irish schools to close early for Christmas
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) said it would be “a significant and much needed boost to the morale of all concerned”.
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has called for “serious consideration” to be given to closing schools four days earlier for Christmas this year.
The TUI, which represents over 19,000 teachers and lecturers in Ireland, said that closing schools for the Christmas break on Friday 18 December – four days and two school days earlier than the scheduled break on Tuesday 22 December – would be “a positive signal of the Department of Education’s intention to protect the wellbeing of all in the school community”.
The TUI also said that the “one-off” move would allow a longer lead-in time for students and teachers to restrict movements before meeting elderly or vulnerable relatives at Christmas, should public health advice at the time allow such family gatherings.
Earlier this week, Minister for Education Norma Foley told an Oireachtas Committee that the Department of Education had, at this stage, no intention of extending the Christmas break. As things stand, schools will break for Christmas on 22 December and return on 6 January.
Commenting on the matter, TUI General Secretary Michael Gillespie said: “Recent months have been unprecedentedly difficult and draining for school communities, with a million students returning to recalibrated classrooms that were barely recognisable as those they vacated the previous March.
“Thanks to the remarkable work of staff, schools have remained open throughout all levels of restrictions, including Level 5. However, stress and anxiety levels remain extremely high as a result of a range of worries and concerns that were not imaginable this time last year.”
“This has been an extraordinarily intensive working period, and staff and students are far more fatigued than they would be during a ‘normal’ school year,” Gillespie added.
“In this regard, the short extension of the Christmas closure period that we are advocating would be a significant and much needed boost to the morale of all concerned.”
In a survey of over 1,500 TUI members carried out in October, 23% of respondents said they have an underlying health issue that is of concern.
31% said they share a household with somebody who has an underlying health issue and 11% share a household with somebody over 70 years of age.
A resounding 95% of respondents, meanwhile, said their work is somewhat or significantly more difficult compared to 12 months ago.
“There is much well-intentioned theorising about the concept of wellbeing in schools, but this would be a real, tangible action that could benefit all in the school community,’ Gillespie said.
“It could also prove to be a ‘stitch in time’ measure that helps prevent longer absences due to burnout and exhaustion later in the school year.”