Government scientists and North Ireland teachers’ union have clashed over the safety of the decision to reopen schools, as schools resume today since March.
Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer, Michael McBride proclaimed the safety of the children and urged government to reopen schools.
His decision was supported by Northern Irish Education Minister Peter Weir, who said, “Schools are not unsafe places for children and they are not unsafe places for teachers either.”
Weir continued that “Very, very few, if any, children will come to harm as a result of attending school, but there is evidence of the long-term harm to children’s education, life opportunities, mental health and well-being from not attending school.”
“There is clear unequivocal evidence that children are less likely to catch COVID-19, where they do most of them will have mild to moderate symptoms and in most cases they will make a very full recovery,” he added.
“There is a very, very low – indeed an incredibly low incidence – of serious disease within children and they are also less likely to transmit the virus,” He concluded
However, teachers unions disagree, saying they have not been given enough time to fully implement the new guidelines issued by the Northern Irish government earlier this month.
The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, the largest teaching union in Northern Ireland, said the “reopening could lead to a second wave of coronavirus infections by Halloween.”
The Northern Irish government gave schools £42 million ($54.9 million) to fund the restarting of schools, with the money to be used for substitute teachers and personal protective equipment among other related needs.
“I fully recognise the stresses felt by teachers, parents and pupils due to the ongoing disruption and uncertainty regarding the future,” Weir said.
“My key priority has always been to ensure all of our children and young people return to school on a full-time basis, as soon as it is safe to do so.” He added.