Minister for Education Norma Foley will meet public health officials next Tuesday in advance of the reopening of schools.

In a statement, the Department of Education said: "As previously agreed, a meeting with public health will take place next Tuesday between unions, management bodies, the Minister and the Department of Education in advance of school reopening."

Primary and secondary schools are due to begin their new term on Thursday, 6 January.

Minister Foley said she "recognises the huge importance of school for children and young people".

The Department of Education noted: "All infection prevention and control measures in place in schools are kept under constant review, and the Minister and the Department has continued to engage with public health officials over the Christmas period."

Earlier, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said it was intended that schools will reopen as planned next week.

He told RTÉ's News at One: "The plan is for the schools to reopen. The schools are very controlled environments.

"All of the information that I've been given, all of the advice I have, is that whilst of course you can get infection within the schools they are substantially safer, for example, than children being outside of school."

Mr Donnelly said that school staff deserve praise for their work to date in keeping school environments as safe as possible.

He said that he is not aware of any other European country that is considering closing its schools at this time.

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Dr Tony Holohan told RTÉ's Morning Ireland today that the incidence of Covid-19 is rising in many age groups, but has been falling since early December in most school-going age groups.

He said public health officials would keep the school situation under review and stay in close contact with the Department of Education.

"We're doing everything we can ... to protect the most important public services that we have, and those are healthcare, education, the care of vulnerable people, and childcare services," said the Chief Medical Officer.

Sinn Féin's spokesperson on education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said schools are opening within days and the department needs to "act with urgency to protect schools".

Labour party spokesperson on education Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said there was uncertainty in school communities and called on the 2022 Leaving Cert cohort to be offered the same options as students last year.

University cancels face-to-face exams

The Technological University of Dublin has cancelled all face-to-face examinations that were scheduled for next week.

In a statement, TUD said it made the decision in response to rapidly changing Covid-19 numbers.

"All written face-to-face examinations scheduled for the Semester 1 assessment period will either be delivered online (through an online examination or remote assessment) or rescheduled.

"Remote examinations already scheduled to take place in January will take place as expected.

"Practical (particularly one-to-one) assessments will take place as scheduled, with the appropriate risk assessments in place."

It said any remaining, required, face-to-face examinations will be held in March 2022, during Semester 2 Reading Week.