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Editor's Viewpoint

It's critical children get back to class, but in a safe way

Editor's Viewpoint


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A socially distanced lesson in Bovingdon Primary School in Hertfordshire

A socially distanced lesson in Bovingdon Primary School in Hertfordshire

PA

A socially distanced lesson in Bovingdon Primary School in Hertfordshire

There are several compelling reasons why our children should return to school as soon as is practical. The most obvious is that they continue their education, which has been interrupted for too long already, putting some deprived pupils at further disadvantage.

It is also important that children reunite with their friends, increasing their social skills and helping them to gain confidence. Another consideration is the mental wellbeing of those who may have found the enforced absence from school and subsequent lockdown quite a trial.

While hopefully it only applies to a small number, there are also concerns that enforced absence from the classroom may have left some open to abuse.

However, the return to school is a subject that has been mired in controversy, not just here. The major consideration is to ensure that both children and teachers will be safe from the coronavirus pandemic on any return to the classroom.

Reducing the social distancing from two metres to one is a contentious issue. While the reduction is known to increase the risk of infection, children seem to be more immune to the virus.

That is not something that can be taken for granted, and any return to school must be subject to public health safety.

The incidence of infection in the community at large has been drastically reduced thanks to the lockdown and people's adherence to scientific advice.

Similar common sense must continue to be applied.

The education authorities and teachers' unions have had differences of opinion over how quickly pupils can return. Some are earmarked to go back in mid-August, with all returning in September, but many teachers and principals feel that may be an unattainable target.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson, himself a former teacher, accused the unions of being out of step not only with the public, but also their own members, an intervention that produced the expected rejection from the unions.

Ultimately, as our vox pop today proves, most parents want their children to return to school, provided safety is paramount. Home schooling, unless the parents are teachers or especially dedicated, is no substitute for traditional teaching. Our young people are one of our greatest assets. They deserve every opportunity to fulfil their potential, even in these abnormal times.

Belfast Telegraph