A body representing second level students has expressed "serious apprehension" at schools remaining open without improved measures to support student safety wellbeing and learning.  

In a statement the Irish Second-Level Students' Union (ISSU) said the recent move to further restrictions was posing a very serious and stressful worry on students, families and the entire school community.  

It said the negative impact felt by young people in previous school closures was "exponential" and that a return to previous full closures could negatively affect students again.  

The union has called on the Department of Education and Skills and the Health Service Executive to provide more practical and robust measures to ensure the safe and sustainable continuation of schooling. 

The ISSU says it is extremely concerned about the contact tracing mechanism for schools. "We have received reports of delays in the assessment of transmission in a school, communication of cases/close contacts and dissatisfaction as to what is deemed a close contact". 

ISSU President Reuban Murray commented: "This is a terribly stressful time for students and there are a wide variety of issues that need to be tackled. The close contact definition for students currently means that if a student has sat next to someone in a classroom all day who is a positive case; they are not deemed a close contact."

The union says it has additional concerns around continuity of learning for students who must isolate at home due to being confirmed a positive case or close contact, or because they are medically vulnerable or have immediate family members at high risk.

It has called for the development of an official online learning strategy.  

"This strategy should outline the appropriate measures a school is required to implement for the effective continuation of learning. Students should not be penalised for not being able to attend school due to health concerns or advised isolation during a pandemic."

Mr Murray also pointed out additional stresses faced by Leaving Certificate students this year: "Students are being over assessed, being told that there are now exams every month and these grades will be used if calculated grades are implemented again - now every class test is a leaving cert exam for these students. This isn't sustainable."