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Dublin: 18 °C Saturday 8 August, 2020
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Students will be required to maintain at least one metre distance when schools return

Face coverings will not be mandatory but students will not be discouraged from wearing them.

Classroom stock image
Classroom stock image
Image: Shutterstock/smolaw

PRIMARY SCHOOL PUPILS from third class up and all secondary school students will be required to maintain a distance of at least one metre between each other when schools return, under new guidance issued by the Department of Education. 

Teachers will also be required to maintain at least one metre of distance between themselves and students, although the guidance recognises that there will be exceptions, such as administering first aid. 

Although, a distance of one metre is the minimum for second-level students, the guidance recommends that a two metre distance rule should be applied where possible. 

Individual desks will need to be at least one metre apart and teachers should arrange to move from classroom to classroom to avoid students moving in groups. 

Students should be encouraged to walk/cycle to school and have staggered arrival times to avoid congregation at school gates. Students should also maintain a two-metre distance while on school grounds. 

The document recognises the challenges posed among different age groups in educational settings. 

“There are particular issues with small children because they tend to put things in their mouths and naturally seek very close contact with caregivers and other children,” it said.

“In second level education there may be different challenges related to intimacy between teenagers which may also pose a risk of infection. Generally speaking the larger the number of people in a group, the more people are placed at risk if infection is accidentally introduced.”

Face masks and coverings will not be made mandatory for students but will not be discouraged in older students who prefer to wear them where physical distancing is not possible. 

While the document recognises that non-medical face masks may “reduce transmission from individuals who are shedding the virus,” it notes that “it is not practical for many students to wear a mask properly for the duration of a school day”.

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Education Minister Norma Foley said the interim guidance will support schools in planning for the upcoming term.

“We all want to support the education system so that we can welcome our pupils and staff across our school communities back into a safe environment later in the year.  We will continue to work with the public health experts over the course of the summer to update the interim advice as necessary,” she said. 

“I hope that the planning work being done and the clarity that we provide today will enable each member of the school community to get a well-deserved break and rest during the summer.” 

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