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Schools urged to avoid large assembly-hall type gatherings of students



The Department of Education is now advising schools to avoid large assembly-hall type gatherings of students after a confusing start to the new year under Covid restrictions.

n updated guidance today it says that schools should “avoid large gatherings including large full school/year group assemblies in one physical space.”

It follows a controversy that arose after St Leo’s Secondary School, Carlow hosted a socially-distanced prayer service in the assembly hall to welcome 152 first years.

Principal Niamh Broderick said they had followed Department guidelines and everything was done properly and safely.

But Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) President Ann Piggott said it was “unwise and ill advised” to hold such assemblies.

Ms Piggott said that in the community “we are being told no more than 15 people can gather outside and six inside. It would be better if assembles happened in small numbers, not in large gatherings.”

In a statement yesterday, the Department raised no objections to the St Leo’s event.

It said that “as part of the suite of public health measures, limits were placed on gatherings in other settings in order to support the re-opening of schools which by its nature involves significant numbers of staff and students in school buildings.”

It added that public health guidance in relation to staff meetings was to ensure two metre physical distancing requirement and “when organising staff meetings, school management should consider holding them remotely where it is feasible to do so.”

But following representations by ASTI on full year/group assemblies and staff meetings, the Department is issuing a note to schools today.

It includes a crucial addition to yesterday’s statement and says schools should “avoid large gatherings including large full school/year group assemblies in one physical space.”

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