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The phased return of schools must be guided by clinical and scientific advice, and not by the actions of Boris Johnston in London. So says local Assembly Member  Justin McNulty MLA.

Sacred Heart Grammar School, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Sacred Heart Grammar School, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

The Newry and Armagh representative said, "Everyone from parents to teachers want to see children back in school, full-time and permanently but that must be only when it is safe to do so. We are all too aware of the impact being out of school has had on children, in terms of education, friendships and in relation to mental and emotional health. However, the last thing our children need is a swift return to school only to be sent home again in a few weeks because of escalating numbers and a decorating public health environment.

"The Minister of Education and indeed the First Minister caused confusion this week when they unilaterally sought to follow Boris Johnston in a bid to reopen schools within days.  This was completely contrary to what the agreed at the Executive and sought to defend to the public only four days earlier."

Mr McNulty added "No one wants to keep children away from in-school learning a single day more than necessary. I want to see schools all back, however I will follow the guidance and supporting the phased return of children is the right way to go. The onus is on the Minister for Education and the Executive to bring forward a detailed return to school plan, letting parents know exactly what to expect and when.  It should be guided by the advice of the Chief Medical Officer and should be accompanied by a well resourced and well financed Recharge Programme based on an Academic, Physical, Mental and Emotional refresh and catch-up."

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