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320,000 pupils to return to school from next week - the full plan for sending children back to education

Cabinet agreed to the phased re-opening of schools today.

Image: Shutterstock/Blurryme

PRIMARY SCHOOL PUPILS from junior infants to second class are set to return next week under the government’s revised Living with Covid plan.

Cabinet agreed to the phased re-opening of schools under the revamped roadmap when ministers met earlier today, before a formal announcement of the plans by the Taoiseach Micheál Martin at Government Buildings this evening.

Under the government’s plan, junior infants, senior infants, first class and second class – including so-called multi-grade classes at these levels – will return next Monday, 1 March.

Leaving Certificate students will also return next Monday, while schools for children with special needs will re-open fully on the same day.

Primary pupils from third class to sixth class and fifth year students at secondary level return two weeks later on 15 March, before all other classes at secondary level are scheduled to return, after the Easter break, on 12 April.

“We are carefully and gradually re-opening schools because we need to get our children back into education,” Martin said in his speech.

“This well represent a relief for both students and their hard-pressed parents.”

Childcare returns on 8 March

The Taoiseach also announced the return of childcare services from 8 March, when the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) pre-school programme will return and ECCE-age children go back to school.

All other restrictions on childcare are scheduled to be lifted on 29 March, when early learning and care and school-age childcare services will reopen.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Roderic O’Gorman said that the rogramme “significantly contributes to children’s early learning and development experiences” and is particularly beneficial to children who have additional needs or experience disadvantage.

“It is also an important foundational stage that will prepare children transitioning to primary education this September,” he said.

“Additional funding, based on the funding arrangements which were introduced from 1 February to 5 March, will continue until 26 March so that services can remain open, even at very low levels of occupancy. This will ensure services can continue to waive fees for parents not using a service at this time.”

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Concerns

However, the Taoiseach also raised concerns about impact of increased mobility among the general population as a result of schools re-opening on the spread.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) warned at the beginning of January that the re-opening of schools at the time could lead to increased levels of Covid-19 transmission due to higher socialisation associated with going to and from school.

Deputy CMO Dr Ronan Glynn said last week that public health experts will “monitor the entirety of the situation” as schools return.

“We don’t want more inter-household mixing outside of school settings and we don’t want people returning to workplaces in the context of children returning to schools,” Glynn warned.

Also last week, Minister for Education Norma Foley re-emphasised that each phase of the return of schools will be monitored in terms of how they affect Covid-19 rates.

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