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Details expected soon on reopening of schools

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DAILY calls between head teachers, the Education Department and teaching unions are continuing during this week’s scheduled half-term break in a bid to identify a way of safely reopening schools in June.

Marina Mauger Picture:DAVID FERGUSON. (28462088)

Further details are expected this week from Education Minister Tracey Vallois, who has marked down Monday 8 June as the earliest date for a return.

Government and independent schools have been closed to the majority of pupils as a result of the coronavirus pandemic since the spring term was brought to a premature end on 20 March.

Marina Mauger of the NASUWT said that it had been reassuring to be able to hear from senior figures in public health during briefings, but said there was now a need for the government to step up its communications in order to reassure teachers.

‘I really understand why schools feel they need to reopen, and I would be entirely confident about saying to teachers that it is safe [to return],’ she said. ‘But the government needs to be aware of how teachers feel – some of them are scared and I hope there will be understanding for them.’

Mrs Mauger said she was concerned about the impact of dealing with the crisis on teaching staff, especially head teachers.

‘The heads have done a great job in helping prepare schools,’ she said. ‘They are great at doing rotas for staff, but they also need to be mindful of their own welfare – many of them worked through the February half-term when things were still normal, then again during the Easter holiday, and they are also working this week.’

Brendan Carolan of the NEU said that it was equally important to reassure parents.

‘There’s still work to be done, and it’s more important that the school environment is safe than it is to go for a particular date,’ he said.

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Mr Carolan said that while he hoped all schools could reopen on the same day, it might be necessary for a minority to delay further because it was taking longer to ensure suitable distancing and other protective measures could be put in place.

It is also understood that some nurseries have been frustrated that government has not provided adequate guidance as to how they can reopen.

Deputy medical officer of health Ivan Muscat spoke at a briefing last week and said that he did not consider there was a risk to children, or the Island as a whole, from schools reopening.

Dr Muscat said that evidence had shown that children were not acting as ‘super-spreaders’ of Covid-19 – as is the case with influenza.

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