Thousands of students return to school under latest phase of reopening 

Thousands of students return to school under latest phase of reopening 

Primary schools will welcome their remaining students back to school, with third to sixth-class students returning to in-person learning from today. Picture: Larry Cummins

Thousands of students are set to return to their classrooms today as the latest  phase of reopening schools gets underway this morning.

Primary schools will welcome their remaining students back to school with third- to sixth-class students returning to in-person learning from today.

At post-primary level, fifth-year students are also set to return to in-person classes from today.

The Department of Education is planning on putting in place accommodations for these students in Leaving Cert 2022, according to Norma Foley, the Minister for Education.

This is to account for the loss of class time, she told Spin Southwest at the weekend.

The minister said she is “very, very aware of their loss of in-person teaching and learning”.

“Notwithstanding the work that has gone in, in terms of remote teaching and learning,” Ms Foley said.

She also encouraged this year’s Leaving Cert students to sign up for both the written exams in June, as well as ‘accredited grades’.

I would be urging students to give themselves the best opportunity and they would perhaps sign up for both or make an adjudication that would determine that whatever the outcome is, it is the best possible outcome and opportunity for the students themselves.

The Leaving Cert 2021 candidate portal closes for registration on March 16 at 6pm. This is a final deadline for registration and will not be extended.

The portal will reopen in late April or early May for students to confirm their choices again.

As of Friday, almost 45% of Leaving Cert students had registered on the portal, and 62% of Leaving Cert Applied candidates.

In a statement, the Department of Education said that both the Department of Health and the HSE have reaffirmed that a gradual phased reopening of schools can proceed.

“Public health has reviewed the measures put in place to ensure safe operation of schools and is satisfied that these infection prevention and control measures, if rigorously adhered to, will keep the school community safe during this period.

“They emphasise that all measures must be followed carefully by students, staff and parents.” 

Enhanced school teams that have been put in place to support schools since October will be available to support schools during the phased return and beyond.

Norma Foley said that Monday marked another “important step” in the phased reopening of schools.

Further guidance has been issued to schools to enable them to continue to provide a safe environment for students and I wish all those well who are returning to the classroom on Monday.

Minister of State for Special Education Josepha Madigan also welcomed the return.

“I am determined to see all students with special educational needs return to the classroom as soon as possible,” Ms Madigan said.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) recorded no new outbreaks related to schools the week that younger children and sixth years returned.

Outbreak figures published by the HPSC relate to outbreaks believed to be linked to schools and are separate from the number of cases confirmed amongst school-age children or amongst staff.

Last week, six outbreaks were recorded in schools, according to Dr Ronan Glynn, speaking at a National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) briefing last week.

These figures will be officially published by the HSPC later this week.

It is expected that first-year, second year, third year and fourth-year post-primary students will continue to learn online until after the Easter break, when term resumes on April 12.

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