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16/10/2021

Foyle MLA demands Education Committee recall on contract tracing chaos

Foyle MLA demands Education Committee recall on contract tracing chaos

Sinn Féin MLA Pádraig Delargy says the Education Committee must act to help Derry's schools cope with the contact tracing system

Sinn Féin MLA Pádraig Delargy has demanded an “urgent recall” of the Education Committee over failings in the contact tracing system in our schools.

Delargy, who was appointed as an MLA for Foyle last week, said that the Committee needed to act to give schools in Derry and the rest of the north of Ireland the best chance of functioning during this current stage of the Covid pandemic.

As reported in The Derry News recently, schools have been struggling with the revolving door of pupils coming in only to go home and isolate for 10 days having been told they've been in close contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19.

The contact tracing system has also placed a burden on parents who have had to take time off from work to look after a child who has been told to self-isolate.

Delargy insists that the situation needs to be reviewed and has called on the Education Committee to act.

He said: “Our main teaching trade unions have come together to express their very serious concern in relation to the Public Health Agency's (PHA) current school contact tracing system.

“(Fellow Sinn Féin MLA) Pat Sheehan has requested an urgent recall of the Education Committee to bring in the DUP Education Minister, the Public Health Agency and trade union representatives to find a solution.

“Public health experts are best placed to deliver this service to allow our principals to get on with the huge task of running our schools.

“However, despite assurances that the PHA had the necessary capacity and resources to deliver on this responsibility, it appears this is not the case, and our principals are under increasing pressure.

“In light of these serious concerns, (Minister of Education) Michelle McIlveen needs to explain clearly what steps she will take to ensure the PHA are properly resourced to carry out this work.

“I share the main teaching unions’ concerns about the PHA's definition of a close contact and the consequences this has for the safety of our young people, teachers and families.

“School staff, pupils and parents need to be confident that schools will be a safe place to work and learn. That’s the message Sinn Féin will be giving to the DUP Education Minister.”

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