ASCL comment on plan for full reopening of schools in Northern Ireland

29/01/2021
Robert Wilson, Regional Officer for ASCL Northern Ireland, comments on the announcement that schools in Northern Ireland will not reopen before March 5.
 
Commenting on the announcement that schools in Northern Ireland will not reopen before March 5, Robert Wilson, Regional Officer for ASCL Northern Ireland, said:
 
“It is no surprise that the full reopening of schools has been delayed. Everybody agrees that getting all children back into class is important as soon as possible, but this clearly cannot be rushed and we understand the Education Minister’s decision to review the situation again on 18 February.
 
“Whilst we believe the best place for children and young people to be is in schools, it is crucial that the government ensures that, when it happens, full reopening is done in a way which is safe and sustainable, and which inspires the confidence of education staff and the public. The excellent work teachers are doing in remote learning is commendable, but we are all aware of the academic and emotional impacts on children of lockdown.

“If Mr Weir and his Executive colleagues opt for a phased return of pupils to the classroom then we believe priority should be given to pupils in years 12, 13 and 14. This will allow schools to conduct assessments that will inform the awarding of grades and continue with the education that will equip pupils with the knowledge and skills they need to move to the next level of learning.

“We have told Mr Weir that we believe education staff should be prioritised for vaccination as soon as possible to provide them with the confidence and reassurance they need and that a clear timetable should be set out for this to happen.
 
“It is important to understand that schools are in fact open right now and are providing face-to-face teaching for many vulnerable children and the children of key workers while also providing high-quality remote education for the many children who are working from home.
 
“This is a very challenging situation for all concerned, and we pay tribute to our education staff for all the work they are doing at this time to sustain educational provision.”