Dear Member

The question of a wider re-opening of schools is one INTO have been fully engaged with for the past number of weeks. A lot of the work this has entailed has been around agreeing priorities with our trade union colleagues both in the other teaching unions and the unions representing our essential non-teaching colleagues.

Read the Northern Ireland Teachers’ Council paper here:

Contingency Planning for a Wider Re-opening of Schools in the Academic Year 2020/21 (PDF)

There has also been a lot of engagement with the Department of Education (DE) and the Employers’ bodies. A lot of this has been via a semi – weekly teleconference. In addition, there have been numerous informal contacts on this subject often on a daily basis. This week will see a step change in this activity as it will be drawn together into a formal process under the auspices of DE, it will take the form of:

  • A Practitioners’ Group including trade union nominees
  • A Representative Group of the key education stakeholders of which INTO is a member
  • The DE Restart Team, consisting of senior DE officials.

The initial stages will see the Practitioners’ Group being convened to gather together the practical concerns of principals and teachers on the ground. These concerns will include health and safety concerns alongside the reconfiguration of the school and school days, provision of services ranging from transport and school meals through to therapeutic, curriculum provision and staffing issues as well as the many other concerns which teachers have been highlighting.

Having collected and codified these issues this information will be passed to the Representative Group which will be responsible for producing a plan to allow the wider re-opening of schools to take place and the necessary guidance materials.

The DE Re-Start Team will then consider the documents provided to them by the Representative Group against DE and Ministerial policy and proceed to approve or amend the documentation prior to issuing it across the system. INTO will continue to press for this to be done as soon as possible and provided to schools in good time to allow the necessary planning and preparatory work to take place.

The concerns raised directly with INTO by members and the material already provided by INTO to DE and the Employing Authorities along with the NITC paper on the subject will inform our approach to this process. For INTO the primary concern remains the safety of our members and their family members. INTO is also acutely aware that the schools will require additional resourcing and financial support including additional staffing costs and will be keeping these issues high on the agenda.

As events unfold and progress is made, we will be posting regular updates via our website and social media platforms. INTO members should check these regularly for updates. This will be a complex and challenging undertaking but one which is being capable of being managed in the context of the current science and up to date medical advice, with appropriate planning and resourcing.

Yours sincerely

 Gerry Murphy

Northern Secretary

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