At midday at Clonburris National School today, fifth class pupils decamp to the park next door to let off steam and practice their running skills for South County Dublin's upcoming Marathon Kids programme.

The teacher supervising them and shouting encouragement is not their regular class teacher – that teacher is one of four at the school who are out sick.

Special Education Teacher Aoibhín O’Neill has stepped in. She should have been supporting pupils with additional needs.

Clonburris NS says it had no choice. For four absences, it could source only one substitute teacher.

It’s a problem shared by schools the length and breadth of the country.

But I wasn't at Clonburris today to explore the substitute crisis.

Despite the reassurances from public health that come now on a weekly basis, if not more often – that Irish schools are relatively safe places and that child-to-child transmission of Covid within the school setting here is uncommon – this school, like many others, is convinced that children are passing the virus to each other in the classroom, and that they are taking it home to their families.

They see schools as a central reason as to why the incidence of the virus is so high in the five to 12-year-old age group.

Principal Fiona Morley says that since September and the arrival of the Delta variant, her school has really struggled to control the virus.

Clonburris NS is doing all the right things. Today the doors and windows were open. There was a regular stream of students out into the fresh air of the outside yard and the adjacent park. There was hand sanitiser aplenty, and lines on the floor to indicate how children should navigate the communal spaces. The preventative measures put in place by the school were checked last June by Department of Education inspectors, and approved.

But despite all this, cases of Covid-19 just keep on cropping up.

Describing the latest spate, Fiona Morley said: "By Wednesday 22 October we had 10 cases, and the majority of those were linked.

"I contacted public health and I was told by a public health doctor last Wednesday morning that a meeting was going to be held about our school situation and that I would be informed after that."

But Ms Morley did not get any call back after last Wednesday.

"When I rang again, I was told to wait at least 48 hours, and again I got no callback, and then by Sunday evening (last night) our numbers have gone to 21.

"So I still don't know did that meeting take place and if it did, what was the result of it".

She says she feels principals are being ignored and have been abandoned.

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In the absence of support from public health, the school and parents have taken matters into their own hands.

Donna-Marie Cullen's 12-year-old son Séan is currently at home. He is one of a number of children in sixth class who parents feel could be close contacts. They have been kept at home and are undergoing regular tests.

Thankfully Donna-Marie's son has tested negative and she will send him back in in coming days, but not without some trepidation. Donna-Marie is receiving treatment for cancer, and so she is especially vulnerable.

She can't understand how a HSE so careful and thorough with her own healthcare can seem to give so little thought to that of her son's. At least, that's how she sees it.

"If it wasn't for the honesty and the empathy and the compassion of the school, the principal, the Board of Management, and the parents, a lot of our students who were asymptomatic we wouldn’t have known they had Covid," she said.

"The parents took it upon themselves to test those asymptomatic children, and some of them came back positive".

On RTÉ Radio on Sunday, Minister for Education Norma Foley said there were seven outbreaks recorded in primary schools in the week before the mid-term break.

Reacting to that, Fiona Morley said: "Seven outbreaks in the whole of the country! I don't know where that figure is coming from.

"When contact tracing stopped, the testing was dramatically reduced. So they have just stopped looking."

Principals like Fiona Morley seem to have lost faith in public health authorities.

"They want the economy to reopen. People want to get back to work. This approach fits that strategy.

"But it is not what is happening on the ground."

Back now finally to that shortage in substitute cover. It is all connected; an existing crisis in teacher supply exacerbated by the pandemic.

Speaking on RTÉ, Minister Norma Foley also announced an additional 100 teacher positions for substitute teacher panels for schools.

When I ask Fiona Morley what she makes of that she just laughs.

"I don't know where they are going to find those extra hundred teachers.

"I mean, who wants to go into schools where there is Covid?"