18th November, IPPN Statement re. Antigen Testing in Schools

Principals and Deputy Principals are deeply concerned about the circumstances that are presenting currently in our schools and they are endeavouring to act in the best interests at all times of their school communities. In that context, IPPN welcomes the introduction of any measure that better ensures the health and wellbeing of the children in our primary school classrooms as well as assisting school leaders in the management of Covid cases within the school community.

It is a positive development, if the provision of access to antigen tests for parents of children who are in the same pod as a child who has tested positive serves to reduce the possibility of onward transmission of the virus within the school setting. However, in the absence of public health input, if this measure is to work effectively, there is now a burden of responsibility which rests, initially, with the parents of the child who tested positive to inform the school and, subsequently, with the parents of children who are in the same pod as that child. In effect, the successful implementation of this measure is dependent on the goodwill of parents to act responsibly.

IPPN has not been consulted on this issue and, accordingly, we are calling for a briefing to provide further clarity on the many questions school leaders have. We look forward to receiving clarity as to how it is envisaged this new measure will work in practice, including how close contacts will be identified in classes where pods may not be in operation and what the implications are for school staff members who may be deemed to be close contacts of the positive case.

The overarching difficulty with the management of Covid cases in our schools is that the Public Health voice is still missing from the equation. It remains the view of IPPN that schools should have access to Public Health advice at the earliest possible juncture, when Covid cases are identified, as it would inform the actions to be taken and better ensure the health and safety of our school communities. The objective has to be to prioritise children’s health and wellbeing, their attendance at school and to ensure continuity of provision of learning experiences to them, while also protecting the health and wellbeing of those who work in our schools. Any measures or supports that can better ensure those outcomes are worth pursuing, resourcing and implementing.

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