Coronavirus: School to close early each day for cleaning

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

  • Published
Oakwood Integrated PrimaryImage source, Google maps

A Belfast primary school is to close to pupils an hour earlier each day to allow for appropriate cleaning and to help teachers with their workload.

School will end at 14:00 BST for all pupils at Oakwood Integrated Primary in Derriaghy after the October half-term break.

The principal of the 200-pupil school, Claire Howe, thanked parents for their "support and understanding".

The time change affects P4 - P7 pupils, who currently leave school at 15:00.

While many schools in Northern Ireland have sent staff or groups of pupils home to self-isolate after positive Covid-19 cases, some have closed entirely for a number of days.

'Preserving class bubbles'

On Monday, St Comgall's Primary in Bangor announced it was closing for 14 days after several cases of coronavirus were identified, although the school subsequently said on Tuesday that it would reopen on Friday.

In a message to parents, Ms Howe said Oakwood had already introduced staggered start and finish times in the school.

"Staff continue to provide an exemplary standard of teaching, learning and commitment, whilst observing a strict adherence to the class and staff bubbles, social distancing and strict cleaning routines," she said.

"In order to minimise transmission by preserving class bubbles, there have been no changeover classes since our return on 24 August 2020.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
September saw more than 300,000 students return to classrooms in Northern Ireland

"This has meant that while P1 to P3 teachers have had non-contact time to complete their additional duties such as marking, preparation and classroom set-up, P4 to P7 teachers have not.

"This has created a severe pressure as teachers have an hour, from 15:00 - 16:00 each afternoon to mark, prep pupils' books and set up classrooms for the following day," she added.

Ms Howe said teachers had to leave the school by 16:00 each day in order for the required level of cleaning to take place so that pupils could attend school.

"Due to the pressure this places on teachers, and the potential impact on their ability to continue to provide the level of teaching that the school, and you as parents expect, this is not a scenario that can continue on a long term basis," she said.

"Therefore, after the October 2020, mid-term break, the school day will begin with a staggered start between 8:45 and 9:00 and end at 13:45 for all P1 to P3 pupils and their siblings and 14:00 for all other pupils," she added.

BBC News NI contacted Oakwood Integrated Primary but they did not make any further comment.