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Physical distancing for schools must be in line with public health advice


The ASTI notes today’s report “Planning for reopening schools in line with the roadmap for reopening society and business”.

The report emphasises that teacher-learner interaction is an essential element of a quality education.

It is well acknowledged that the start of the next school year must be approached with caution and that public health advice is of prime importance in guiding any decision. The ASTI would be very concerned if a differentiated approach to physical distancing is introduced for schools which deviates from that which pertains to wider society. Any deviation from the health advice available from the National Public Health Emergency Team would be unacceptable.

The ASTI has already communicated its key priorities regarding second-level schools at the Department of Education and Skills stakeholder group meetings.

Second-level schools are complex institutions housing up to 1,500 students as well as their teachers and other school staff. Students take a diverse range of subjects, some in specialist rooms, which involves large numbers of students moving through school buildings throughout each day. Because of these factors, the sooner that second-level schools can plan for the implementation of necessary re-opening requirements the better. An essential element of the plan will be substantially enhanced cleaning facilities in schools to facilitate a rigorous hygiene regime for students and staff.

The priorities for the ASTI are as follows:
• Ensuring the health and safety of students, teachers and other school personnel
• Adjusting the physical infrastructure to maintain social distancing
• Resourcing and supporting teaching and learning
• Making student equity a top priority at system and school level
• Supporting the psychological and emotional wellbeing of students and teachers.
The ASTI insists on continued engagement in relation to the re-opening of schools in order achieve these priorities.