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Editor's Viewpoint

It is imperative schools reopen with safety measures in place

Editor's Viewpoint


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'The Education Minister Peter Weir underlines that schools are due to reopen on a phased basis and that a range of safety measures will be required, but his department has also said that it does not have enough funding for PPE and other equipment.' (Danny Lawson/PA)

'The Education Minister Peter Weir underlines that schools are due to reopen on a phased basis and that a range of safety measures will be required, but his department has also said that it does not have enough funding for PPE and other equipment.' (Danny Lawson/PA)

PA

'The Education Minister Peter Weir underlines that schools are due to reopen on a phased basis and that a range of safety measures will be required, but his department has also said that it does not have enough funding for PPE and other equipment.' (Danny Lawson/PA)

While the still very active Covid-19  continues to create worries, some of the Stomont Executive's steps to deal with this pandemic continue to create confusion.

The Education Minister Peter Weir underlines that schools are due to reopen on a phased basis and that a range of safety measures will be required, but his department has also said that it does not have enough funding for PPE and other equipment.

This situation beggars belief. Union leaders, and no doubt parents and staff, have been quick to point to the Education Department's lack of financial preparedness even though the phased reopening is scheduled to begin very soon.

Justin McCamphill of the teachers' union NASUWT has underlined that if the proper safety measures are not in place, this could put schools on the front line at a time when health experts are seriously worried that the infection rate might increase.

Mr McCamphill says that the Education Minister "seems to operate under the illusion that schools are some sort of magical places where coronavirus can't be transmitted". Clearly it can, and our children and their teachers and staff need the utmost protection.

There is also uncertainty about the benefit of wearing masks, with the chief medical officer Michael McBride and chief scientific advisor Professor Ian Young both claiming that "there would be some benefit" to pupils wearing masks at school.

This is hardly a ringing endorsement for masks, but Justin McCamphill makes another good point when he says that if we want to educate people in general about wearing masks, we need to model that practice in schools.

It must be a priority that the safe return of pupils is facilitated and that the money is found for all the necessary safety measures.

The consequences of another year of disruption in all our schools simply does not bear thinking about. We need decisive leadership from Stormont.

Belfast Telegraph