| 12.2°C Belfast

NI Executive expected to clarify when all children can return to school

Close

All parents should have an idea when children will be returning to full-time classes by Thursday evening.

All parents should have an idea when children will be returning to full-time classes by Thursday evening.

All parents should have an idea when children will be returning to full-time classes by Thursday evening.

Education will again be the main topic of conversation when the Executive meets later on Thursday.

By tonight, all parents should have an idea when children will be returning to full-time classes.

Primary years one to three went back last Monday but are currently scheduled to revert to remote learning on March 22 so that pupils in exam years 12 to 14 can return to education.

If the Executive sticks to that plan, the youngest children will be in school for just nine days before having an extended Easter break, while those in the exam years will have just one week back in class before the holidays.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

Education Minister Peter Weir will today ask the Executive to speed up the process of reopening schools for all pupils.

He wants to see primary years one to three and years 12 to 14 back before Easter.

A paper from Mr Weir recommends that all primary pupils who have not yet returned to school (primaries four to seven) start on March 22.

While that looks unlikely, the Executive could compromise and allow years one to three to stay in school when years 12 to 14 return on March 22.

The minister is targeting April 12, the first week after the Easter holidays, as the first day on which all pupils will be back in school.

First Minister Arlene Foster said any decision would be informed by a range of factors.

“It’s about the other harms to children as well — the fact that they’re not being taught with their peers, (the risk to) their mental health and wellbeing, the fact that they can’t engage in school sports. We’ll be looking at all of those issues,” she added.

Head teachers have urged the Executive to maintain continuity for years one to three by reversing the decision to withdraw the youngest pupils from class at the end of next week.

The NASUWT teaching union previously called for caution.

“It is entirely understandable that parents and many teachers would wish nursery and primary one to primary three children to remain in school after March 22,” said NASUWT northern official Justin McCamphill.

“But the original plan adopted by the Executive was based on the advice of their scientific advisers. Unless that advice has changed, there should not be a change to current plans for primary and nursery schools.”

Mark McTaggart, assistant northern secretary with the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), said he would expect any decision to be in line health advice and supported by evidence.

“If it can be demonstrated that in the intervening time from the decision being taken and now that it is safe to disregard this advice, and that it is safe for primary one to primary three and years 12 to 14 to be in school at the same time, INTO could have no objection,” he explained.

“The same would be true of full reopening of schools after Easter.”

Belfast Telegraph


Top Videos



Privacy