Social distancing the main concern as INTO looks for early guidance on schools reopening

The Department of Education has been urged to provide “practical” and “early” guidance to primary schools to enable them to plan for reopening safely in September.
Social distancing the main concern as INTO looks for early guidance on schools reopening
File photo of Into general secretary John Boyle.

The Department of Education has been urged to provide “practical” and “early” guidance to primary schools to enable them to plan for reopening safely in September.

Unions and other stakeholders representing 43,000 primary teachers and school management met with officials from the Department of Education today to begin planning how schools may operate under existing Covid-19 restrictions.

Schools have been closed since March 12 due to the Covid-19 crisis and will not reopen until September at the earliest. Chief among the concerns are how children will be accommodated in classrooms under social distancing guidelines.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (Into) welcomed the commencement of talks and stressed that schools face an “enormous logistical operation” that will require “meticulous planning and clear guidance”.

As social distancing is expected to remain in place in September and beyond, the teachers union said “early” guidance is needed to give schools the time to plan and reorganise how classes will operate.

On the back of a detailed submission to the Department in recent weeks, the Into said “practical guidance” is needed to facilitate “planning at a local level”.

Into general secretary John Boyle said: “I’m pleased that the department has taken many of our members' concerns and suggestions on board and initiated this formal engagement process.

“We will endeavour to work constructively with all stakeholders in the primary education sector to ensure that when our schools reopen, we can be confident that pupils and teachers will return to an environment where every precaution is taken to ensure their safety.”

The Into submission included calls for appropriate measures to be put in place to help children with social distancing and smaller class groups.

At the meeting today, officials signalled that the Department will look at the international experience when drafting a plan for reopening primary schools.

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