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Guidance recommends school bag bans and meals in classrooms

The Department of Education has published guidance to help schools plan how to reopen in the autumn

A ban on school bags, meal times in classrooms and staggered arrival times are among recommendations in new guidance for the education sector.

The 53-page document published by the Department of Education outlines how schools should prepare for a return to school in the autumn.

It comes after Stormont ministers agreed to reduce the social-distancing measure to one metre for children and young people.

The guidance acknowledges that not all schools will be able to bring back all pupils full time under those social-distancing requirements.

The guidance issued by the department said primary schools that are unable to operate at full capacity with social distancing in place must ensure pupils have at least two days a week in the class room.

For secondary schools, pupils must have a minimum of 50% classroom time, raising the possibility of children attending school for one week in every two.

Pupils in year 10 and below will be kept in small protective bubbles to limit mixing among the wider school population.

The bubble model will be maintained during meal and play times.

The guidance suggests some meals could be delivered to classrooms.

Children should continue to be educated via remote learning when they are not in class, the guidance states.

It also recommends staggered arrival and departure times from schools, to avoid large crowds gathering at school gates.

Children will be prevented from bringing items such as bags into the school setting and taking items out of school at the end of day.

Pupils will be asked to wash their hands on arrival at schools and at regular intervals throughout the day.

Schools are urged to introduce one way systems and apply a flexible approach to timetabling to minimise contact in the corridor setting.

Secondary schools are urged to consider a new model whereby the teacher would move between classes, not the children.

The guidance says children should not wear PPE in school and staff should only wear it in very limited circumstances, such as giving medication to a pupil.

The document also contains guidance for children and pupils who are in medically vulnerable categories or who live with people who are.


Education Minister Peter Weir (Presseye/PA)

Education Minister Peter Weir (Presseye/PA)


Education Minister Peter Weir (Presseye/PA)

Education Minister Peter Weir said the guidance had been formulated in consultation with trade unions, managing authorities and education support bodies.

“My ambition has always been, and remains, for the full-time resumption of classroom-based learning for all pupils as soon as it is safely possible to do so,” he said.

“I fully appreciate the stresses felt by all our teachers, parents and pupils during this time of disruption and uncertainty regarding the future.”

He added: “This guidance in many ways reinforces practices we have all become accustomed to.

“It promotes regular hygiene practices on arrival at schools and throughout the school day and the application of the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ principles.

“The guidance also promotes a flexible approach to use of existing spaces as a means of maximising face-to-face teaching opportunities and provides the framework within which workforce planning can now be developed.

“Today is an important starting point in the journey to reopening schools and reflects our current circumstances.

“We will continue to be guided by medical and scientific developments between now and August 24.”