Parents have been warned of making ‘alternative transportation arrangements’ for back to school as workforce disruptions from Covid-19 could affect services in the very short term.
The Education Authority spokesperson said: “The current high transmission rates of Covid-19 may impact our workforce and could lead to disruption of school transportation services in the coming days.
“We will do our best to communicate service changes through our website www.eani.org.uk/news/transport-updates – however, as some disruptions can occur in the very short term, we recommend that parents also other transport arrangements in place. “
Teacher unions and school principals expect an increase in the number of class closings in the coming weeks.
The majority of students will return on Tuesday, but NASUWT official Justin McCamphill has warned that the lack of appropriate action as the number of cases of Omicron variants continues to rise in the community means widespread shutdowns are inevitable.
“Significant disruption is going to occur at the school over the next few weeks,” he said. “The executive and the Minister of Education have not done enough to protect school staff and students as schools return for the new term.
“Faced with an exponential increase in Covid cases, the response from the Department of Education has been to encourage staff and students to take a lateral flow test.
“This is not enough and teachers are rightly concerned about the impact on their health as well as the pedagogical impact on the young people they teach.
“School principals have been placed in an impossible situation and must prepare for a significant staff absence.
“The Minister of Education should have provided for a gradual return to allow schools to prepare. Distance learning will again be a feature for many students.
“Teachers and school leaders in Wales have had two days to prepare. The teachers in Northern Ireland should have the same.
The president of the National Association of School Principals said that with the new school term which has only a few hours, teachers are already resigned to the fact that there will be regular closings. “School leaders approach this mandate with a sense of resignation that transmission in school will be high and that pressures on staff will necessitate regular closings for many children,” said Graham Gault.
“The persistent lack of meaningful contact tracing and current guidelines for isolation of household contacts appear to increase the risk of transmission.
“It is disappointing that there is no plan to temporarily redeploy qualified teachers from across the education system to help alleviate these pressures.”
Students are also preparing for a wave of closures.
“The feeling with the students by the minute is that the schools are going to be closed,” said Morgan Shuttleworth, president of SSUNI. “Nobody wants this, but for the young people on the pitch it seems inevitable. Schools don’t need guidance, they need strong, achievable support.
Meanwhile, a Londonderry school principal insisted that schools should have been allowed to extend the Christmas holidays to help deal with the loss of staff. St Cecilia’s College principal Martine Mulherne said “we are all in the same storm but not in the same boat” as some families will have followed the advice at Christmas and New Years, while others will not. have not.
“Children have no choice but to sit next to others whose families may have chosen to celebrate in a more traditional way and not strictly follow current guidelines,” he said. she declared.
“So this week in all of our schools, we are planning to return classes of up to 30 children from 30 different households to a confined space with open windows, wearing a mask and washing hands as mitigation measures. . Anyone like to make a prediction?
“Giving ourselves a 3/4 day ‘break’ from face-to-face teaching this week can give us a chance to keep our schools open in the weeks and months to come. “
Sinn Fein MP Pat Sheehan called on the Education Minister to urgently review his approach to handling Covid so they can safely stay open.
“There needs to be a comprehensive plan that puts in place High Efficiency Particulate Absorption (HEPA) filters in all classrooms, that sets out a contact tracing policy that teachers and families can trust, and to accelerate the redeployment of qualified teachers from non-teachers. pupil facing back positions in the classroom, ”he said.
The Education Ministry said: “The minister wrote to schools before Christmas and this was followed by a letter from the permanent secretary on Friday.
“As an important mitigation measure, we encourage schools to ask all staff and post-primary students to take a lateral flow test within 24 hours of returning to school in January,” said they added.