What difference does a year make? At the start of 2021 school pupils were looking at a three week extended break. That quickly developed into three months of school closures.
Today, and through the course of this week, pupils will return to the classroom.
That much has changed, but so too has the number of Covid cases in the community.
What develops next seems to be left in the lap of the Gods.
The need to keep schools open has been stressed but the issue over a shortage of substitute teachers has not been addressed.
The warnings of what school leaders will face in the next few weeks have been there for some time. Whatever transpires during the next few days and weeks should not come as a surprise.
School leaders will be hoping the Department of Education has made contingency plans for all eventualities. But they have considerable doubts.
Teachers, unions, even the pupils themselves are warning that they’re expecting serious disruption to the ability to have children in schools.
The question is have those in the key decision making positions been listening? Little seems to have been said, or done, to ease the fears that thousands of schoolchildren will once again face some time learning at home.
The answer, schools have been told, is for pupils and staff to take lateral flow tests at home 24 hours before going to school.
As the principal of St Cecilia’s in Derry, Martine Mulherne says, schools want a fighting chance of staying open through this term, but a fighting chance means they need to be given all the weapons they need.
Schools had their backs against the wall as they struggled to make it to the end of last term, but the only thing that’s changed in two weeks is that there are now more and more positive cases in the community.
School leaders should not have to go cap in hand begging ‘please sir can we have some more’.
If, as we are told, education of our children remains a priority, then something more than the sandbags of ‘take a lateral flow test’ will be needed to stem the tide of Covid expected to surge through schools.
“School leaders are approaching this term with a sense of resignation that in-school transmission will be high and staffing pressures will necessitate regular closures for many children,” said Graham Gault, of the NAHT. He will be hoping he’s wrong and the arrival of thousands of children into classrooms doesn’t bring another spate of school closures racing behind them.