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Q&A on schools reopening in Northern Ireland: The lessons facing pupils and parents on hygiene, distancing... and the drop-off and pick-up

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Staggered lunches and break times will help maintain social distancing according to the Government guidance

Staggered lunches and break times will help maintain social distancing according to the Government guidance

Q. How will schools cope with social distancing when pupils return?

A. The current social distancing guidance of two metres must be followed between all adults within the education sector but a distance of one metre is appropriate between children and young people (year 10 and younger).

Children in Year 11 and above will be expected to maintain social distancing, as will all adults in the education workforce.

The authorities recognise not all schools will be able to achieve this objective immediately, and that 'blended learning' may have to be used, with 50% in-school teaching contact time for all children, with the balance being delivered by remote learning.

Q. How will schools deal with the 'school run' when lots of pupils arrive all at one time?

A. When they reopen, schools have been asked to use staggered arrival and leaving times, with marked drop-off areas, and to ask parents to remain on or outside the school grounds, where possible. Schools should actively discourage parents from entering the school buildings. The Department of Education says schools should consider stopping children from bringing anything from home, or taking shared resources home.

Q. How will meals and break-times be managed?

A. It may not always be possible to accommodate pupils in canteens and a reduced service may be likely, the Department of Education says.

This may require pupils to eat at their desk, or at alternative locations such as outside, using disposable containers, packaging and cutlery, which will be supplied.

Staggered lunches and break times will help maintain social distancing according to the Government guidance.

Q. How will health and hygiene issues be handled?

A. Schools will set up additional facilities and supplies for hand washing, sanitisers, disposal of tissues, cleaning and disinfection of equipment, one-way circulation systems and signage.

Staff and children will be discouraged from touching their face, or putting hands or fingers into their mouths

Pupils should be shown how to cough into their elbow if they don't have a tissue or paper towel.

If they have a paper towel they should be shown how to cough into it - and then dispose of it safely into the nearest bin.

Q. What is happening with GCSEs, A-level examinations and the Transfer Tests?

A. For GCSEs and A-levels, calculated grades will be issued. The grades will be based on a combination of information provided by schools and colleges and statistical information.

There will be an appeals process for pupils dissatisfied with the grade they are awarded.

Tests set by the Association for Quality Education (AQE), and the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) are used by many grammar schools to select their intake of new pupils.

Eleven Catholic grammar schools - which use the PPTC test - have said that they will not be using it to admit pupils in 2021.

However, none of the 34 grammar schools which use the AQE test have said they will suspend its use. AQE tests will take place on November 21 and 28 and December 12.

Belfast Telegraph