SDLP Education Spokesperson Daniel McCrossan has called for an emergency plan to keep schools open following the Christmas break.
Mr McCrossan said that due to the threat posed by the Omicron variant DUP Education Minister Michelle McIlveen must act now to ensure children’s education is not disrupted.
He has written to the minister outlining a number of proposals designed to keep children safe.
West Tyrone MLA Mr McCrossan said:
“Throughout the pandemic successive DUP Education Ministers and their department have failed to act, despite all warnings and our children and their education have suffered as a result. Our schools are already under extreme pressure and the alarm bell has been sounded about the Omicron variant – we need to do everything we can now to ensure our schools can reopen safely in the new year.
“Our current teachers and school staff are being badly stretched as they do their best to try and keep schools open despite the pressure they are facing. Many teachers and pupils are being impacted by Covid and I am aware of schools already having to rotate year groups attendance at school, while others have decided to return to remote learning. There has also been significant disruption to exam modules.
“I have written to DUP Minister McIlveen outlining a number of emergency proposals I believe give us the best chance of protecting children and staff. We need to see a reserve list of qualified teachers drawn up from education bodies and the department so they can be deployed to cover classroom shortages and a reserve list of other education staff including classroom assistants, administrative staff and cleaners who can help out when needed.
“I am also proposing an immediate reintroduction of mitigations including cleaning regimes, safe travel to and from school, ventilation, contact tracing and ensuring the current isolation guidance is followed. I would be more than willing to work with the minister and her department to facilitate these measures and will do whatever necessary to protect our children and their education.
“Minister McIlveen must be clear, we are facing a very difficult second term in our schools and the current measures will be inadequate to protecting wellbeing and education. The time has come for decisive action – children must come first.”