Clear national health and safety approach needed for face-to-face teaching in universities, says IFUT

Ad-hoc approach by individual colleges would ‘risk chaos for staff and students alike’

The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) has called for a single, clear health and safety framework for any reopening of face-to-face teaching in the New Year, saying that without it college administrations are currently planning in a vacuum and devising contradictory measures related to preventing the spread of Covid-19.
Joan Donegan, General Secretary of IFUT, said that “a key issue is clarity on the two metre versus one metre rule for separation of students.  It is simply not acceptable that some colleges are now proposing a 2 metre distance, others advocate one metre while yet others define distance on a ‘nose-to-nose’ basis, reducing separation still further.
“While everyone would prefer a return to on-campus education, to avoid the risk of chaos in efforts to combat Covid-19, the priority must be to ensure that no staff or student in an individual college is exposed to inferior health and safety protection due to lack of clear minimum requirements at national level.”
“Health and safety in college is not an aspiration, any discretion or flexibility allowed to individual colleges must be subsidiary to clear national requirements and considerations.”
Joan Donegan said that the move to online teaching has required major adaption and changes for staff and students alike, with far greater time now required for new teaching and study rotas and techniques.
“Many staff and students have, however, had to adapt to this new online reality.  Further and additional pressures from a change in policy mid-stream or a return to a combination of face-to-face and on-line teaching must be identified and acknowledged.”
“These range from issues like substantial revision of how classes would be delivered to a potential accommodation crisis for many students who will have to move away from home.”
“These issues can only be assessed and addressed through a full and open consultation, on an equal and ongoing basis, among all stakeholders in higher education, to enable a sustainable gradual return to on-campus education.”
“Progress on this issue will also obviously be influenced related to development of the pandemic in society generally over the Christmas and New Year period.” Joan Donegan said.
For further information on this media release please contact:
John Gallagher  - John Gallagher Consulting.  Tel. 087 9369888
Joan Donegan  -  General Secretary, IFUT  -  087 1315960

Publication Date: 
Monday, November 23, 2020 - 13:00