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Unions give a cautious welcome to Peter Weir's timetable for schools

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NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach. (Simon Boothe/NASUWT/PA)

NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach. (Simon Boothe/NASUWT/PA)

PA

NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach. (Simon Boothe/NASUWT/PA)

Teacher unions have given a cautious welcome to the Education Minister's timetable for restarting schools.

The Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU) welcomed Peter Weir's collaborative approach in getting schools back to a 'new normal', while the NASUWT union said it must be done in a way that is safe and commands public confidence.

UTU president Stephen McCord said parents should be assured that teachers want children back in school - but only when it's safe for them to be there.

"Children should be in school and we are in touch daily with the Education Department and the Education Authority towards that end," he said.

"We can assure parents and pupils that we are doing everything we can to get children back at school where they belong, but safely back at school.

"Education cannot be at the price of health and lives. We welcome the fact that the Minister and Education Authority are listening to us as they plot the way ahead - for it is, after all, teachers who are at the chalk face and know what will work for their schools - and what won't."

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said the union has previously welcomed the Stormont Executive's decision not to rush ahead with the reopening of schools.

"As plans are now starting to be put together in relation to how schools might begin to reopen in the new academic year, it will be critical that the Executive maintains a cautious approach which does not undermine public health or put at risk the health and safety of teachers or children," he said.

"Once the details emerge of the arrangements, the NASUWT will evaluate them and advise members in the light of the key tests it has established around making schools Covid-19 secure and minimising risk.

"The NASUWT's bottom line remains that no teacher or pupil should be expected to return to school until it can be demonstrated that it is safe to do so."

NASUWT Northern Ireland representative Justin McCamphill added: "While it has been the practice of some schools to reopen for some days at the end of August to prepare for the beginning of the academic year, it would not be acceptable for individual schools to move their established starting date without agreement with school trade union representatives."

Michael Allen, principal of Lisneal College in Londonderry, told the Belfast Telegraph that the minister's announcement was helpful, in that it brought clarity to the 'return to school' timetable, and put an end to conjecture about Northern Ireland aligning with other parts of the UK, such as England, where schools are to return in June.

"It's put that speculation to bed," he said.

"It gives us time to plan properly."

Belfast Telegraph