A number of leading children's charities have said the blanket closure of schools is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Legal advice obtained by the charities has also found the closure of schools, even with the provision of remote education, is unconstitutional.

The charities have called on the Government and education partners to reopen schools immediately, and keep them open to limit what they say is the negative impact of lockdown on a generation of children.

Charities including The Children's Rights Alliance, The National Parents Council Primary, Barnardos, the autism charity AsIAm, and Inclusion Ireland have also said the State needs to make up for the loss in learning that children have experienced over the past year.

They have said advice shows that online lessons do not translate into an adequate education for all children because of their varying needs and the difference in access to technology and adequate environments for learning.

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The Children's Rights Alliance said the Government has not provided an express legal basis for what it described as an "intrusion" on children's fundamental right to education.

Its CEO Tanya Ward said the State has a constitutional duty to provide for free primary education, but that it is falling far short of this because there are categories of children for whom no educational provision is currently being made.

A new survey by the National Parents Council Primary shows 90% of parents think schools should now reopen in line with public health advice.

The survey also showed that only 37% of children have access to their own device for remote learning, 37% have unreliable broadband, 46% have limited or no access to a quiet space and 55% are unable to access remote learning without adult supervision.

NPCP CEO Áine Lynch said: "In less than a month, our children will have endured a year's worth of disruption to their schooling. It's time we came together to fix this."

Inclusion Ireland has said the schooling of children with special needs on alternate days needs to be resolved. CEO Lorraine Dempsey said the move has been unsettling for children.

Barnardos CEO Suzanne Connolly said children it works with have regressed and they will not recover quickly from the impact of school closures.

Schools can open even if infection rate is high - ECDC

It is possible to keep schools open, even in situations where there are high levels of infection, according to the European Centre of Disease Control.

Josep Jansa, Manager of Response and Emergency Operations with the ECDC, said it has been learning a lot about school environments and there are ways to manage and keep them open "in the safest possible way".

He told RTÉ's News At One that he believes it is possible to keep schools open, even in situations where there are high levels of infection.

But if the situation remains of higher concern, as it is now, then keeping schools open should be re-assessed, he said.

"We need to check case by case, situation by situation and country by country - but there are ways [that schools] can reopen in the safest way," he added.

Mai Fanning, President of the National Parents Council Post Primary, said while the appetite is "quite strong" among parents for their children to return to school, there are difficulties in post primary.

These include moving to and from classrooms that prevent "bubbles from staying intact".

Speaking on the same programme, Ms Fanning said supports will need to be made available to second level to make up for the loss of face-to-face class time learning during the pandemic.

The National Parents Council Primary's CEO said younger children are falling behind on their "critical development" as a result of schools remaining closed.

Ms Lynch said a "concrete plan" is required to address deficits in education that have accrued over the last year.

"Some four-year-olds have spent a quarter of their lives in lockdown at this stage. They are missing out on critical development and oral skills that should happen at school."