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Responding to comments made by the Education Minister in the Assembly today and his email to school principals on Friday evening, Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said:
 
“The level of threat from Covid has now increased significantly and this is reflected in the increased measures taken by the Northern Ireland Executive to tackle the virus. The Health Minister has made it clear that taking no action is simply not an option and the previous two-week circuit breaker did not bring the case numbers in Northern Ireland down sufficiently.

“On Friday evening at 8pm the Education Minister told principals that schools would return as normal in January but today has informed the Assembly that years 8 to 10 will move to blended learning from the 25 January.

“Quite frankly this is a bizarre decision when the Health Minister has warned that the health system is facing higher levels of demand now than in the first wave.
 
“Moving immediately to remote learning could help to save lives and protect health, which surely should be the priorities at this time of increased threat to us all.”
 
Justin McCamphill, NASUWT National Official Northern Ireland, said:
 
“Closing schools to face to face education should always be a measure of last resort and no blended model can ever fully replace a teacher in the classroom. However, if this measure is necessary it would be a failure of leadership not to take it.

“The NASUWT has consistently stated that the Minister should follow the scientific advice. The Minister is in receipt of evidence that schools play a significant part in Covid transmission. Forcing schools to remain open is causing wholly avoidable anxiety and fear to school staff, parents and pupils.”

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