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Department of Education ‘strongly recommends’ post-primary pupils to continue wearing face coverings


Schools will soon return after the half-term break

Schools will soon return after the half-term break

Schools will soon return after the half-term break

The Department of Education has said it’s “strongly recommended” that face coverings are worn in schools by post-primary pupils after updating guidance ahead of the end of the half-term break.

Schools have now been informed that the vast majority of mitigations currently in place in educational settings remains unaffected, despite the announcement by Health Minister Robin Swann that restrictions are to be removed in wider society.

The department said: “On February 14, 2022, the Minister of Health informed the Assembly of his decision to move the remaining Covid restrictions into guidance. The vast majority of the DE guidance is not impacted by this and remains unchanged at this point.

“The position on face coverings, based on public health advice, remains that it is strongly recommended that post-primary pupils wear a face covering at all times when inside school buildings, including classrooms, corridors and confined communal spaces such as toilet areas.

“You will be aware that, by February 28, other UK jurisdictions will have eased their requirements for post-primary pupils to wear face coverings in schools. While our case numbers are still high, they are moving in the right direction, and the minister wishes to be in a similar position here as soon as possible. To ensure that the removal of face coverings from guidance is not delayed, the department will continue to actively engage with health colleagues to seek their most up-to-date advice, to inform the minister’s decision on this issue.

“Officials will also continue to engage with practitioners and unions ahead of any change to guidance. Until any such changes are agreed, schools and educational settings should continue to implement the current Department of Education Covid guidance.”

While the number of reported Covid cases among school pupils in the first week of February fell to just over 5,000, the figures over a 28-day period, since schools returned from the Christmas break, have shown a significant rise in positive cases.

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Teaching unions have voiced concerns that the removal of restrictions elsewhere will see positive case numbers rising in schools, which in turn will lead to further problems with staff absent from the classroom.

“The great fear among school leaders is that the lifting of restrictions will further increase the crisis of trying to find available staff and keep schools open,” said Graham Gault, interim director with the National Association of Head Teachers.

“There are many across our schools feeling a bit of trepidation at what increased community transmission of coronavirus might mean for keeping schools open. What we need is to prepare for what will be asked of us.”

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