Full Pupil Return to Schools Risks Reversal in COVID Progress

The EIS has responded to the First Minister’s announcement on the return to school for primary 4-7 children on a full-time basis and all secondary pupils on a part-time basis.

Commenting, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, "While teachers are obviously eager to see young people returning to classrooms, they are also very clear that this must be done safely. We are only one full week into the return of P1-3 and the impact of that needs to be assessed before final decisions are taken on next steps."

"The First Minister has said the Government will be driven by data not dates but today's announcement seems to be quite the opposite of that. An overhasty return of all pupils to the classroom setting, could put at risk the progress that has been made in reducing rates of Covid infection during the lockdown period."

On the return of secondary pupils on a blended learning model, Mr Flanagan said, "The First Minister has set out a desire for schools to develop a timetable model for the two weeks before Easter and then abandon it post Easter, with absolutely no cognisance of the workload pressures which that will create for already exhausted school staff, including teachers who will be focusing on providing additional support to students in the senior phase, currently working towards qualifications under a completely new assessment model."

"This additional workload will be wholly disproportionate to the benefit that it will bring for students, whilst potentially undermining preparation work for qualifications."

Mr Flanagan added, "The announcement of a planned full return after Easter would suggest that physical distancing requirements currently in place for Senior Phase students may be removed despite the scientific evidence of the need for this mitigation."

"This will place those young people, and their teachers, at significant additional risk of contracting Covid in the run in to qualifications and, frankly, seems a reckless approach to be considering."

The EIS recently launched the Protect Education campaign, encouraging government to vaccinate school staff, to improve school ventilation to combat the spread of the virus, and to provide medial-grade face coverings for staff to combat Covid spread.