Denis Naughten is to seek an urgent Dáil debate on the re-opening of schools in September.
“We must do everything possible to ensure that schools can fully re-open in September and parents need clarity on this issue,” stated Denis Naughten, who will today (Tuesday) ask the Business Committee to schedule time for a Dáil debate on the issue.
“Many parents are already struggling to access childcare as people begin to return to work across the country and my concern is that any reduction in the number of hours or days that children attend school, particularly primary school, will impact on thousands of parents, particularly women, across the country.
“We have already seen the National Women’s Council of Ireland highlight the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 crisis on women, with NWCI pointing out women provide the majority of care work and are more likely to be in low paid and precarious work as well as being more likely to parent alone.
“We have already seen the impact for our frontline staff of the lack of childcare and we are seeing this more now as workplaces re-open ahead of childcare. Parents are struggling to find care for young children where they cannot work from home and grandparents are unable to help as many would normally do.
“If schools don’t reopen fully, we will see this on a wider scale. Many working parents use after school facilities but what options will exist for those parents who cannot work remotely for shorter school days or, indeed, days when children may not be in school at all? Many parents will also be unable to continue to work remotely while home-schooling as for many the two are not compatible.
“If childcare is available, are parents even going to be able to afford to pay for the extra hours of care that shorter school days would require? My concern is that this could force many women out of the workplace and, even on a temporary basis, that would have employment implications and an impact on their ability to apply for jobs and seek promotions. This will have huge implications for women in employment and could potentially set equality back years.
“This is a far bigger issue than just school hours due to the impact on the education of children, particularly those with special needs, as well as the impact on families, equality and our economy. We have already seen the Wage Subsidy Scheme extended to include women returning to work after maternity leave and we must ensure that women are not disproportionately impacted again when schools re-open.
“As someone who pushed for increased female representation on State Boards, I believe we cannot allow this to happen and I am seeking an urgent debate in Dáil Eireann for this reason,” concluded Denis Naughten.