The Minister for Education has reiterated that it is public health authorities and not the Department of Education that is directing the public health response to Covid-19 in schools.

Norma Foley addressed the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education this afternoon.

Asked by Sinn Féin TD Rose Conway-Walsh about claims that teachers are being told to switch off the Covid-19 app while at school, and about why school principals were being told not to share information regarding confirmed cases with teachers or parents at a school, Norma Foley said public health authorities were the ones making adjudications and no one else within the school environment.

She said it was her understanding that public health had said that the Covid phone app was just one tool, and that they were utilising all information at their disposal in reaching decisions.

Commenting previously on the role of the Covid app in determining close contacts in schools, the Department of Education has said that such data is reviewed together with information gathered from a broader and more detailed Public Health Risk Assessment carried out in a school.

Addressing the committee this afternoon Minister Foley said the role of public health authorities had been agreed with the education partners and she asked if the TD was suggesting that decisions in relation to public health should be made by school principals or boards of management.

Responding to questions from Labour's Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Ms Foley ruled out introducing any elongated Christmas break for schools.

There have been some calls for schools to close early to allow children and families to restrict their movements in order to facilitate family visiting over the Christmas period.

Rejecting the suggestion, Ms Foley said her department had no intention at this stage to extend the Christmas break.

She said she was very conscious that there had been time missed by students in schools and that her department was working hard to ensure that this was not repeated.

"I'm conscious of the public health advice which is telling us that students are much better served when they are in school and that schools are very safe environments", she said.