UK news Northern Ireland schools Q&A: Everything you need to know about pupils returning to the classroom last news
MetiNews.Com - Belfast Telegraph Education Correspondent Mark Bain answers questions on when and why pupils will be returning to the classroom.
Breaking News ! "Belfast Telegraph Education Correspondent Mark Bain answers questions on when and why pupils will be returning to the classroom. As things stand, pupils in P1 to P3 will be returning to school on March 8. Pupils in exam years 12 to 14 will return on March 22 for one week before Easter, with P1 to P3 reverting to home schooling. Other pupils will not return until after the Easter holidays at the earliest.Health advice was to allow a single cohort back at one time to measure the effects of the return to school on the rate of infections (R number). They need three weeks to collect data. The Executive felt it was important to get A-level, GCSE and AS-level pupils back early too to allow teacher assessments to begin for exam grading purposes.First Arlene Foster and the Education Minister Peter Weir are keen to get pupils back as soon as possible and, after the announcement that all schools in England will return on March 8, along with evidence from Scotland, they now feel the original schedule should be looked at, with a view to bring the start time for all pupils forward in the calendar.Peter Weir has always felt it was important to allow children to resume school life as soon as safely possible, for education purposes and for mental health benefits. He had argued, before the announcement in England on Monday, that he would like to see March 8 set as the date for all schools to return. The Executive could not agree so a compromise of a gradual reopening resulted. Now Mrs Foster has joined the row saying she would like to see the schedule revisited. But the timing of her intervention makes it look like Northern Ireland is again following the lead of England rather than the advice of health advisers. England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty pointed to the damage being done to students the longer they are not in class, and that data showed there was a “minimal risk” to children of contracting the virus.NASUWT: “Ditching this plan simply to match the position in England would be a mistake.
.”INTO: “A carefully managed phased reopening of schools will greatly assist in ensuring our schools are as safe.”Hardly surprisingly, party divisions were quick to appear.The initial plan was not roundly welcomed with TUV leader Jim Allister called it a “hokey cokey” approach, a view shared by some in the DUP.Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill dismissed Arlene Foster’s call for revisiting the schedule and said the phased reopening was the “responsible approach”. Sinn Fein’s chair of the Stormont health committee, Colm Gildernew, argued that the Executive should be doing what “suits the situation” in Northern Ireland, as opposed to moving in lockstep with Great Britain. SDLP Education spokesperson Daniel McCrossan added the decision by the Executive to phase school reopening “was led by medical and scientific evidence, and any change to that strategy must be similarly led. The First Minister should resist adding more uncertainty for people here by dancing to the tune of Boris Johnson.”Well, yes. Divisions over how to handle education are not new, particularly between Stormont’s two big parties. They have clashed over the transfer tests, academic selection and, again, any potential return to school.It all adds to frustration and anger from unions, parents, teachers and the pupils themselves, but with a five-party Executive, no decision has been straightforward in how to tackle the Covid pandemic.The Department of Health has not commented on the latest split over education, or whether they will look to speed things up as suggested by Mrs Foster.Teaching unions are not happy that even more confusion has been added to the situation just when it looked like a clear path had been agreed. The Executive is due to carry out a lockdown review, which should be announced next Monday, with schools now central to the argument again."
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