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Earlier return for exam pupils would have been ‘welcome

A TYRONE post-primary principal believes exam students should have been brought back to classrooms sooner, as schools across the county prepare for the proposed ‘phased’ return.

Education minister Peter Weir has released his plan for re-opening schools in the North from March 8.

Pre-school, nursery and primary school pupils in P1 to P3 will return on that date, while students in years 12 to 14, who will be awarded qualifications this summer, will be brought back from March 22.

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To enable the return of years 12 to 14, remote learning will resume for pre-school/nursery children and pupils in P1 to P3 for the week beginning March 22 until the start of the Easter holidays.

Pre-school, nursery and primary pupils in P1 to P3 will then return to school after the Easter holidays, along with years 12 to 14.

Despite welcoming the plan for reopening schools, Holy Cross College prinicipal, Clare Bradley, believes secondary school students could have returned to school earlier than is planned.

Ms Bradley said, “I am most disappointed that the date for return of exams students in Years 12 and 14 is very close to Easter.

“I had hoped it would be March 8 alongside the return of some pupils to the younger classes in primary school. As the buildings are in different locations and students and staff do not mix, I cannot understand why the return to secondary schools is not at the earlier date.

“This year teachers have to assess and gain what is to be known as ‘high evidence’ in order to determine each grade for each Year 12 and 14 student. This is not entirely possible via remote platforms and therefore an earlier date of return to face-to-face teaching would have been most welcome.

“I do agree with the phased return of other year groups and am hopeful that immediately after Easter all students will be back to full-time classroom attendance,” added Ms Bradley.

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Peter Weir said his main objective was a full return of all pupils to school as soon as practicably possible after the Easter break, but this had to be balanced against the public health position.

Principal of Omagh High School Christos Gaitatzis also welcomed the plans for reopening and said it is essential exam students get back to the classroom.

“It is significantly important as the schools are required to gather evidence and data for the forthcoming centre-assessed grades in May” Mr Gaitatzis added.

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