Northern Ireland news

Schools 'must reopen' after Halloween break

Tables and chairs spaced for social distancing in a classroom

CATHOLIC school chiefs have insisted that the extended Halloween holiday must not be stretched out any further.

It has been urged that keeping schools open for learning must be a priority for government and wider society.

Pupils and staff are due to return to classrooms on November 2.

With half of all the north's schools being affected by Covid-19 cases so far this term, there have been some calls for an even longer lockdown.

Northern Ireland is one of the only regions in Europe that has closed all its schools twice.

Education Minister Peter Weir and children's commissioner Koulla Yiasouma are among those who have said children should return at the end of the half-term break.

Now, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) has also warned that "all must be done to support the re-opening of schools in early November".

Writing in The Irish News today, CCMS Chief Executive Gerry Campbell said the council was extremely concerned about both the impact on young people and the longer-term effects that the crisis would have on pupils.

"We all need to play our part in adhering to public health guidance and regulations to help to create a safe environment that will enable and facilitate schools to remain open on a continuing basis. The CCMS council endorsed this position at its most recent meeting and was unequivocal in stating that schools must be supported in re-opening and in remaining open for pupil learning thereafter," Mr Campbell said.

"Schools are at the heart of society. As well as places of learning, they are centres of support, care, friendship, personal development and growth. Keeping our schools open for learning must be a priority for government and wider society. We must support our young people's emotional and mental health and wellbeing."

Mr Campbell said there must be a continuing focus on creating and enhancing a learning environment where the social and emotional needs of entire school communities were met.

"We must now focus all of our thinking and collectively, as we seek to support the continuity of education within this ‘new normal’, we must challenge ourselves on what our priorities really should be for the remainder of this year," he added.

"It is now time for all partners to consider how we might introduce some flexibilities that will assist leaders and teachers as they endeavour to meet the overriding priority of keeping schools open for learning."

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Northern Ireland news