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The phased return of schools in the coming weeks has been welcomed by Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty, however he has expressed concern at the approach taken. 

Mr McNulty, a member of Stormont’s Education Committee explained, "Covid has disrupted all our lives and no more so than the children and young people in schools. I fully appreciate the need to have children return to face to face education however families and indeed teachers have been left confused by the decision of the Minister of Education. 

Windsor Hill Primary School, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Windsor Hill Primary School, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

"Teachers were planning for the return of those early years and as news broke of the planned return in March there was a sense of relief and positive anticipation.  I have not met or interacted with a single teacher yet who want to keep teaching remotely.  However, when the Minister clarified that Nursery and Primary 1- 3 would return for two weeks before reverting back to remote learning for a further two weeks before the Easter break, many were left wondering."

Justin McNulty MLA
Justin McNulty MLA

The MLA added "When it was explained that this was to allow years 12, 13 and 14 in secondary schools return this added confusion to the plan. Parents are saying it just does not make sense.  Some are saying that it would be better for children to remain at home until after the break, were as others are saying that other year groups should be returned.

"The onus is now on Minister Weir to explain the rationale for such plans. Parents and school leaders need answers.  Children need a safe and managed return to school and I fear that the actions taken this week were taken so that the Minister could be seen to be acting rather than delivering a logical, strategic and planned return to face to face education."

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