Return to school – November 2020

As pupils, teachers, school leaders and staff return to school from the Hallowe’en break, many will feel that the concerns that were evident prior to the extended closure remain unaddressed. Staff must be assured by and have confidence in the information and guidance that is being issued to them by the managing authorities and the Department of Education, if pupils are to receive the type of education they are entitled to and everyone is to be safe in schools.

The announcement that Education is to receive an additional £64 million is to be welcomed, as is the Minister’s statement that the bulk of this money is to be allocated to supporting schools.

In his statement yesterday, he said: “Principals and school staff are working in a very challenging environment and it is important that they have the resources they need to keep our schools safe for our pupils.” INTO will keep a close eye on the Minister’s actions to ensure that he puts the public’s money where his mouth is.

In response to the letter to principals from the Deputy Permanent Secretary,  Ms Fiona Hepper, dated 29 October 2020, and the reissuing of guidance from June 2020 in preparing schools for reopening on Monday 2 November, INTO must caution Ms Hepper that while it is fine to offer online training for staff to prepare for blended and remote learning moving forward, this will be another failed strategy, unless sufficient time and resources, both physical and personnel, are made available for schools and teachers to effectively prepare, should a wider need for distance learning take place.

INTO has continuously lobbied and met with the managing authorities on behalf of its members, to ensure that their concerns are heard. It has also, at every opportunity, been involved in challenging them as we seek to ensure that advice being given to schools in relation to dealing with Covid-19 is effective and fit for purpose. This work will continue, with INTO officials and elected representatives scrutinising and contesting, where appropriate, the advice and recommendations coming from Management.