Head teachers in Northern Ireland have hit back at the Education Minister over his claim that he is consulting widely with them over plans for a return to school for pupils.
They say they were caught completely unaware by the announcement on Thursday that pupils in key years, such as those taking GCSEs or A-levels, and those transitioning from primary to secondary schools, will be the first to return in late August.
A wider phased return for other pupils is to follow in September, but Mr Weir said this would involve a mix of learning at school and from home.
Geri Cameron, president of the National Association of Head Teachers in Northern Ireland, has called for a greater input from teachers on the front line before decisions are made on how a return can be safely managed.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the issues raised by trade unions were under consideration
Ms Cameron also called on the department to consider making school attendance voluntary, at the discretion of parents without punitive measures if any return is to happen. "I don't think people realise the complexities we all face," she said.
"Every school will have a cap on the number of pupils they can accommodate and that causes immense practical difficulties.
"The First Minister was at Pond Park Primary School in Lisburn earlier this week. That's a new school, large classrooms, wide open spaces, ideal for implementing social distancing and taking in pupils in a safe and orderly manner. But when you compare that to a school like Nettlefield Primary School, an old, listed Victorian building, even the corridors in there are less than one metre wide. How is that going to work?
"These things all need to be considered and every school. It's an incredibly difficult logistical challenge to get right.
"We need to achieve is the right balance and that's going to be extremely difficult," she said.
"We hear that the Education Minister say he's consulting widely with head teachers, but I'm afraid that's simply not the case. We all know Mr Weir has a job to do and we feel every sympathy for the poisoned chalice he has to handle, but what we need is to be involved in the process all the way."
Ms Cameron said teachers' heads have been left spinning.
"We had no warning of the announcements made on Thursday. What we ask for is for the Education Minister to speak to us before going public with statements.
"We are fielding calls from parents who have more than one child at a school and are likely to have to go back to work.
"We're taking 50-60 calls a day from teachers who are anxious about going back into the classroom, who have had to deal with abuse from parents.
"Over the next few weeks we need to see a checklist emerge on how we are going to be fair to all pupils and parents on which children return to classrooms.
"We would advocate that school, in the next school term, is voluntary and that no punitive measures are taken against any parent who wishes to keep their children out of that environment."
Keith Wysner, principal at Whiteabbey Primary School, urged parents to show grace and patience.
He said: "We have to move forward together, but aside from the practicalities over social distancing, the main difficulty is that we're all heading into the unknown."
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “A very wide range of issues, including those raised by the trade unions, are under consideration and, subject to approval of the Minister, we will be working closely with the whole education sector, including trade unions and school principals to develop appropriate guidance to assist schools with planning provision.”
We miss the children and we want them back! However, as we begin to consider what a return to the classroom setting will look like in the next academic year, parents, children and teachers must be assured that schools are safe spaces before this can happen.