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Primary schools may reopen for day a week in September if two-metre rule remains

Education Minister Joe McHugh said students will engage in ‘blended learning’ from home on other days.

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Minister for Education Joe McHugh (Brian Lawless/PA)

Minister for Education Joe McHugh (Brian Lawless/PA)

Minister for Education Joe McHugh (Brian Lawless/PA)

Primary schools may reopen for one day per week in September if the two-metre social distancing guidelines remain in place, a minister has said.

Secondary school pupils would attend school for two days per week while they engage in “blended learning” from home on the other days of the week, according to Education Minister Joe McHugh.

Mr McHugh said, however, if the two-metre distance was reduced to one metre, “almost all” primary school pupils would attend school for two days per week.

Speaking at a post-Cabinet briefing in Dublin on Friday, he said it remains the Government’s goal to get all pupils back to school in September as they have been closed since March.

The minister said: “I want a common sense approach to reopening schools in September.

“Where possible, children and young people and staff should be far enough away from each other so they are not breathing on or touching each other and this will have to be accompanied by additional hygiene measures in schools.

“I want to be very clear with everyone around the impact of one-metre and two-metre social distancing in schools.

“At primary level, the two-metre rule would mean almost all pupils attending school just one day per week.

“At post-primary level, this would mean most pupils attending schools two days during the week.”

He said children will adapt to new restrictions when they return to school in September.

The minister added: “Young people have bought into the process of why they have to practice good hand hygiene and social distancing.”

Mr McHugh said more funding will be provided to schools to help them pay for additional hygiene equipment and changes to classrooms.

I have to weigh up the risks with the gaps in education, the risk of regression and the failure to provide an education - but we have to ensure it is safe for pupils, teachers and staff to returnJoe McHugh

With regards to secondary schools, students would attend school on a certain number of days per week depending on what year they are in.

Mr McHugh said: “In terms of the one-metre and the two-metre distances … the one metre would mean 50% of pupils return to school and that means some students would come in two days a week and others would come in three days a week.

“I don’t want to envisage a situation where we have a process where we leave children behind – by the end of August, children will have been out of school for a six-month period.

“I have to weigh up the risks with the gaps in education, the risk of regression and the failure to provide an education – but we have to ensure it is safe for pupils, teachers and staff to return.”

The minister was speaking at the announcement of the Summer Provision programme for children with special educational needs for this year.

The programme has been expanded this year to include children with Down syndrome and children at risk of regression.

He said this year, 890 disadvantaged schools will provide summer camps, including a numeracy and literacy programme for primary pupils and a programme of re-engagement for post-primary students.

PA