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The perils of working from home are fairly well documented at this stage.

As an MEP I have not been in Brussels since October and have been over five times in total. The return of staff to Brussels in early January caused a more than 50% increase in cases despite very strict quarantine requirements. So it looks like it will be working from home for a while to come.

Last week was the first one since home schooling resumed. We have three children, two in secondary (first year and third year) and one in primary (second class) - and there’s a puppy who is semi house-trained.

So on the Sunday night beforehand we started to plan out where everyone would sit for their classes, how we would manage with devices and the division of labour given that both my wife and I have full time jobs.

Having good broadband, enough devices and sufficient space in the house makes all of this reasonably manageable. It really struck home with me how difficult all of this is for people without these resources, especially with younger children and both parents working - not to mention households that have experienced job loss and/or Covid itself.

For kids coming up to their Leaving Cert, this has put them at an enormous disadvantage. No later than the end of Jnauary, a call will have to be made about the exams. My colleague, Senator Mary Fitzpatrick has called for the students to be given the option of predictive grades or sitting the exams this week.

I was a secondary school teacher for seven years and this term between Christmas and Easter is the one when you finish off the curriculum with the Leaving Cert students. The final term is all about revision. And bear in mind that these kids missed out April and May of last year as well.

The handling of the school closures left a lot to be desired. From my own experience, I know that teachers would love to have gone back and taught the Leaving Cert students only. They are kids that the teachers will know very well and there would be no lack of motivation on the part of the students themselves. Having the staff to themselves would have been a great opportunity.

But it was of course essential to put public health first.

The Leaving Cert is a lot about rote learning and motivated students will appreciate the extra time afforded to concentrate on studying. But this will not be the experience of the majority. I did honours Maths back in my own day and would never have managed it without daily classroom instruction.

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