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Education minister: Schools to deal with 'malicious coughing' and Covid-19 jokes from pupils individually

Norma Foley played down suggestions her department would issue advice on bad behaviour related to Covid-19.
Sep 1st 2020, 7:58 PM 34,974 37

THE EDUCATION MINISTER has played down suggestions that her Department will issue guidance to schools about pupils who cough threateningly or make inappropriate jokes about Covid-19.

Schools in the UK have been told that some pupils risk being excluded for “malicious coughing” or joking about the pandemic, as part of new behavioural guidelines issued this week.

It follows a warning from the UK’s Department for Education that teachers there could see an increase in bad behaviour due to pupils’ lack of regular attendance and “classroom discipline” in recent months.

The department said that schools should clearly state the consequences for bad behaviour, particularly around new movement restrictions and hygiene rules.

One UK school set out a list of “coronavirus red lines” which will result in fixed-term exclusions for pupils if they are breached, while another told parents that pupils who do not follow hygiene routines and social distancing will “be moved to a separate area”.

But responding to a query from, Foley noted that students had been mostly following instructions since returning to school this week.

She also suggested that any sanctions for children for bad behaviour or breaching Covid-19 guidelines would be implemented by schools themselves.

“I think we’ve seen over the last number of days in terms of hand hygiene or social distancing or correct behaviour, students are really rising to the challenge,” the minister said.

“Our guidelines are very clear as regards what needs to be put in place to ensure a Covid-free or Covid-safe environment.

“But equally so, it is acknowledged that every school has its own autonomy.

“There are rules or regulations within schools as regards behaviour, and we have every confidence that behaviour of whatever nature, will be dealt with by the schools.”

The National Association for Principals and Deputies, a group representing Principals and Vice-Principals, also encouraged students to work with teachers and fellow students to minimise the spread of the virus. 

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“This encouragement extends to asking that all students do not seek to undermine such a collaborative effort in the interests of school community and public health, by deliberately disrespecting any Covid-19 guidelines they are required to follow,” a statement said.

A spokesperson for the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) told that school codes of behaviour “have always played a key role in communicating important values and expectations to students such as respect and dignity for fellow students and school staff, inclusivity and equality”.

“It is vital that school codes of behaviour reflect the current context and in particular expectations around new health and safety measures recently implemented in schools. The ASTI is awaiting Department of Education and Skills guidance for schools in relation to this matter,” they added.

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha and Órla Ryan.'s coronavirus newsletter cuts through the misinformation and noise with the clear facts you need to make informed choices. Sign up here

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