INTO calls for immediate schools’ closure in Northern Ireland

Following confirmation of a case of community transmission of the coronavirus in Northern Ireland, INTO Northern Secretary Gerry Murphy urges the Stormont Executive and Dr. Michael McBride, the Chief Medical Officer, to revisit the scientific evidence and the decision not to close the schools at this time.

INTO General Secretary John Boyle and Northern Secretary Gerry Murphy said:

Over the last number of days, our union has taken calls from our members, teachers and school principals, all of whom have expressed a high degree of concern and unease as the coronavirus spreads. Our members are worried about the children and young people in their care and also for their own families. The confirmation by the PHA of a community transmission of the virus is a significant development which will add to the anxiety and concern expressed to date.

Concerned parents are already acting with their feet and taking their children out of school. Parents are concerned for their safety and that of other family members with underlying medical conditions. Conflicting medical advice in the different jurisdictions is adding to their frustration. A virus cannot be constrained by a border and we need joined-up, all-island thinking to respond to this crisis.

Given schools will be closed for a number of days in the coming weeks around the St Patrick’s Day holiday, it would be prudent for authorities to outline a plan of action for what the First Minister calls inevitable school closures.

Such a move would provide parents and carers with time to make necessary arrangements for childminding and for the schools to put in place plans to support continued pupils learning during school closures.

INTO is calling for decisive action to be taken now in the interests of our members, the children and young people in their care and society more generally.