The Department of Education is preparing for a full return of schools this autumn, Minister Norma Foley has confirmed.

"We are in constant communication with public health specialists ahead of the new school year and we can confirm that we are preparing for a full return of schools in late August and early September," she said in a statement.

"Public Health has stated that the new variants of the disease do not change the infection prevention and control measures required in schools.

"The evidence available from the operation of schools during Covid-19 to date shows that schools are low risk environments due to the infection prevention and control measures in place," the Minister for Education said.

Ms Foley today brought a memo to Cabinet confirming that plans are in place to support the full reopening of schools in time for the start of the new school year.

Schools have been advised that when they reopen in the new term, they will "continue to be supported in terms of the additional resources necessary to provide for these measures".

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Minister Foley said: "The provision of CO2 monitors for every school will be an important tool in keeping our schools safe and in addition to the mitigation measures already in place, our staff and students can be confident of returning to safe environments in our schools."

The department has procured a number of portable monitors which will be distributed to schools in August and September - between two and 20 at primary level and between 20 and 35 at post-primary level depending on school size.

Schools are advised to have windows open as fully as possible when classrooms are not in use, such as during break-times and at the end of each school day, and partially open when classrooms are in use.

The Teachers' Union of Ireland said it will welcomed Minister Foley's announcement of the provision of CO2 monitors for schools, which it said it called for "as far back as last November".

In a statement, TUI General Secretary Michael Gillespie said that "in engagements with the Department in the coming weeks we will continue to raise the concerns of our members, particularly in relation to those who are pregnant or may have underlying health issues.

"All protections must be strictly adhered to, and the health and safety of all in school communities must remain paramount," Mr Gillespie added.