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Teachers' union expresses its concern to Stormont leaders


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Gerry Murphy from INTO

Gerry Murphy from INTO

Gerry Murphy from INTO

A leading teachers’ union has written to the First and deputy First Minister outlining their concerns over the return to the classroom for children in Northern Ireland on January 4.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation made an offer on December 23 to work with Education Minister Peter Weir, to address concerns of members who are struggling to prepare schools for reopening, but have had no response from the department.

The union’s Northern Secretary Gerry Murphy said: “I believe that the education partners would support further changed arrangements to the school year on public health grounds in the interest of securing safer schools for pupils, staff, and their families in the time ahead.

“The INTO remains strongly committed to supporting our 7,000 members in safe workplaces, as they endeavour to teach and support the wellbeing of their pupils at school where children undoubtedly benefit greatly.

“However, it is now becoming very clear that the ability of schools to operate normally is likely to be seriously impaired due to the higher numbers of staff and students who will need to self-isolate and/or restrict movement in the weeks following Christmas.”

In the letter, Mr Murphy outlined several issues the union urged must be considered when making an informed judgement regarding the most appropriate date for re-opening schools.

The union said an extension of school closures for another week, at least, would give school leaders and Boards of Governors time to put enhanced measures in place prior to the beginning of term. Among the issues needing addressed the union listed:

  • Support for the larger number of pupils who will not be in a position to return to school for a few weeks.
  • The sourcing of substitutes to cover for staff members who will be absent for a number of weeks having been deemed to be close contacts of confirmed cases or having tested positive during the Christmas closure.
  • The supply of additional PPE and sanitising liquids, where school supplies are running low.
  • An opportunity for school leaders and school governors to revise their Covid-19 plans, something that INTO believes will be very necessary when the rate of infection in the community is growing so alarmingly.

The union said it remains “available to work constructively with the minister”.

Belfast Telegraph


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