Covid-19 safety measures in NI schools not adequate – Education committee chair

Under the Northern Ireland Executive’s plan, P1 to P3 primary school children will return to school on March 8.
Covid-19 safety measures in NI schools not adequate – Education committee chair

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle said the “key” to the return of primary and secondary schools is safety measures.

Covid-19 safety measures in Northern Ireland schools have not been adequate, the education committee chairman has said.

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle said the “key” to the return of primary and secondary schools is safety measures.

Under the Northern Ireland Executive’s plan, P1 to P3 primary school children will return to school on March 8.

On March 22, secondary school children in key exam years, years 12-14, will return.

On the same date, the P1-P3 cohort is due to revert to home-learning for one week ahead of the Easter holidays – to mitigate the impact on infection rates of the secondary school cohort’s return.

Mr Lyttle said there has been some confusion around why the P1-P3 cohort will return to home-learning.

The Executive is to meet on Monday to discuss plans to ease out of lockdown.

The Minister for Education Peter Weir and DUP First Minister Arlene Foster have voiced concern that schoolchildren in Northern Ireland are returning to school more slowly than those in the rest of the UK and in the Republic.

The Alliance MLA told the BBC’s The View programme that the Executive will review its plans around school reopening this week.

“The extent of the minister’s safety measures to date has not been adequate,” he added.

“We have been told for days we are getting additional face-covering compliance and communications – we need effective school testing and delivery of the special school staff vaccination programme that is long overdue.

“As a parent of school-age children I appreciated the challenge lockdown has been for families and schools across Northern Ireland.

“It’s absolutely vital that we get a return to school and youth activity as soon as possible but we need to make sure it is delivered safely and we heed the scientific advice and put safety measures in place.

“That phased return is what the education minister has put forward to the Executive and there has been some confusion with regards to why those P1 to P3 pupils in particular would be returned for two weeks, and then removed for the week after that.

“That is a particular concern that the Executive will want to review this week.

“I think the approach from the DUP and the education minister has been profoundly unhelpful – the proposal that the education minister has put forward is indeed for those pupils to be removed prior to Easter.

“If indeed there is an issue regarding that particular cohort, let’s get round the Executive table and address that concern, but the phased return is what has been, what is recommended, by health advice.” On Sunday it was confirmed that a further three people died in Northern Ireland after testing positive for coronavirus.

Another 136 have tested positive for the virus, according to the latest update from the Department of Health.

On Sunday there were 301 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 34 were in intensive care.

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