The Minister for Education will tell Cabinet colleagues this morning that her department is planning for the phased full reopening of schools from 1 March, according to Government sources.

The Minister for Education will tell Cabinet colleagues this morning that her department is planning for the phased full reopening of schools from 1 March.
Norma Foley is expected to say it is her strong preference that all students will return to their classes over the course of the month, according to Government sources. 
She will also give an update on Leaving Certificate negotiations. 
Talks involving the Department of Education, teacher unions the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland  and Teachers’ Union of Ireland and other interested parties, resumed this morning.
Students with additional needs and Leaving Certificate students are the priority in any return to school. 
After that, at primary level, priority is likely to be given to smaller children for whom remote learning is more difficult. 
Last week, almost 4,000 children with additional educational needs returned to in-person education.
Yesterday, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said a return to school had to be a first priority, but that it had to be done cautiously on a phased basis.
He said the impact of the return of classes would have to be continuously assessed, partly because of the new variant, first detected in the UK, which is more transmissible. 
He reiterated that public health concerns rested on the mobility of the more than one million people that a full return to school entails. 
He said the country was going in the right direction to enable schools to reopen, but progress in reducing infection numbers over the coming weeks needs to be seen. 
Any phased return will be subject to public health advice.
Earlier, the Taoiseach said it is very important that all those involved in talks around the format of this year’s Leaving Certificate do everything they can to bring clarity for students.
Speaking on his way into the Cabinet meeting, Micheál Martin acknowledged that it has been a “stressful and anxious time” for students and for the education sector in general and that he is hopeful that clarity will be forthcoming.
He said the talks have been “intensive and are continuing”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said there will ‘be clarity this week’ on the Leaving Certificate. I Read more:
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) February 16, 2021
It is understood they are are centred on the holding of the written Leaving Certificate and a parallel option to include a modified form of last year’s calculated grades.
Orals, practical exams and the Junior Cycle exams are also part of the broader discussion.
The ASTI pulled out of talks last week over concerns that calculated grades would be the dominant option offered to students.
ASTI officials returned to the negotiating table after receiving assurances the union said it had received from Minister Foley.
It is understood that the Leaving Cert talks are separate to other ongoing discussions on a wider reopening of schools.
Labour’s Education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Riordáin said a political decision needs to be taken on the Leaving Cert so that students and teachers can move on. 
He said the “cleanest decision” is to give calculated grades to every student and an option to sit the exam if they are not happy with the results.
The Welfare Officer with the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union said the varying messages on form assessment will be and when decisions will be announced is causing confusion for students.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, Matthew Ryan called for exams to be held as close as possible to the original date of traditional Leaving Cert examinations. 
He said it is important for decision makers to take into account the “mental duress” that this cohort of students are experiencing. 
“This is not just about exams”, he said, “this is about our entire life.”  
Additional reporting Dyane Connor