‘This is a week like no other’ says Cookstown teacher

Schools in Mid-Ulster are coping with ‘a week like no other’ as they support frontline NHS workers in the face of the Covid-19 epidemic, according to a Cookstown teacher.

Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 12:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 12:30 pm
Stephen McCord, UTU.

Stephen McCord from the town, head of science at Larne High and incoming President of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, said members were standing with key workers to look after their children in the fight against Coronavirus.

“This is a week like no other but our members want to do their bit in the frontline alongside the doctors and nurses and hospital staff. How best to achieve that is still uncertain and confused and we would urge clarity from the Minister and Education Authority as soon as possible,” he said.

“These are uncharted waters. Having contacted parents last weekend, some principals knew which children to expect in school this week but there are still uncertainties for others on numbers and healthy and safety issues.”

Mr McCord stressed that the numbers in any school must not compromise social distancing measures for pupils and teachers.

“Many schools have already been affected by the virus with staff members forced to self-isolate and so teacher numbers are down to begin with,” he continued.

“Teachers want to do their bit to support key workers who are doing such an amazing job on the frontline but they do still have very real health and safety concerns for the children in their care and for themselves.

“Where health and safety concerns in one school cannot be overcome there may well be merit in sharing pupils and staff between schools.

“Teachers can’t help feeling they should have had better and earlier guidance. The decision to close schools was taken within a 48-hour period but looking at what had happened in other countries this was an inevitable outcome and guidance for teachers should have been clearer and sooner.”

First Minister Arlene Foster confirmed the closure of all schools from Monday after intense pressure from parents and schools to follow the examples of the Republic and other European countries combating coronavirus.

The announcement was made in conjunction with Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill,.

The schools are expected to stay closed through into the summer period and possibly beyond.

Mrs Foster said last Wednesday that measures have been put in place to ensure children can still learn at home.