Catholic schools confident of full welcome back for students

Following a summer of hope and hard work, management and staff at Catholic schools look forward to welcoming back students after an “extraordinary” effort to reopen schools.

Teachers look forward to meeting pupils’ needs in very difficult times

Primary and secondary schools are set to reopen at full capacity over the next two weeks having spent the last two months working to meet HSE and Department of Education guidelines.

It comes as Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has appealed for communities to “be supportive and patient with the key task of getting schools up and running”.

John Curtis of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB) for Catholic secondary schools said management and staff have worked “extraordinarily hard” to overcome the challenges 2020 posed.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Mr Curtis said: “Our schools have been faced with a myriad of challenges this year and the work by management and staff at school level has been exemplary.”

Challenges

Mr Curtis described the reopening of schools as just the “third chapter” in a series of challenges schools have had to overcome.

“Number one was remote learning, number two was the exams and number three was reopening schools,” he said. “I can’t speak highly enough of the work management and staff have done.”

Schools are looking forward to welcoming students back, Mr Curtis said, despite the obvious difficulties and changes it will entail.

“I think all of us, throughout the summer, have hoped that we would be in a position to have our students back in school,” he said. “It’s the nature of the pastoral care that we give to our pupils that’s most important.

Mr Curtis believes that schools have an important part to play in helping students overcome this difficult time.

“In looking after the students and looking to their needs in every way shape or form, be that academic, pastoral, spiritual, we welcome the fact that we now have the opportunity to have our students back with us,” he said.

Meanwhile, Seamus Mulconry of the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association said he is confident schools will reopen at full capacity.

“Everybody is committed to a safe reopening and people are anxious to get started,” he told The Irish Catholic. “It’s going to be a very different environment and we’re going to need everyone in the community – teachers, parents and children – working together to keep schools open.”

Review

Speaking about Government support for schools, Mr Mulconry said the resources provided needed to be reviewed “on a constant basis” once schools start.

“No plan survives contact with reality,” he said. “Challenges will emerge which people haven’t anticipated, or which were underestimated. We need to keep the level of resources under review so that if there are new and emerging challenges, these are addressed in a timely fashion.”

Bishop Leahy said that “while there is a natural quiver of nervousness around what lies ahead, we should all strive to create an atmosphere of mutual support”.