Revealed: This is how a new school day will look in NI - classroom layout shows pupils observing one metre social distancing

The Department of Education has published an in-depth report on how it envisages what a new school day will look like when students return to classrooms in August and September.

Friday, 19th June 2020, 5:51 pm

One of the most anticipated issues within the context of education is that of social distancing.

On Thursday, First Minister, Arlene Foster, revealed the NI Executive had agreed to permit a reduction of two metres to one for school children however teachers and other adults must continue to observe the two metre rule.

In the report published by the Department of Education on Friday afternoon, it is accepted that social distancing will not be possible with current class sizes.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

This a classroom layout created by the Department of Education which illustrates how things would look if school children maintained a distance of one metre.

In the instance a school cannot adhere to social distancing they will have to adopt what has been described as a "blended pattern of education" - this means that some schoolchildren might only be physically present in the classroom for two days per week and remote learning will be used for the remaining three days.

The basics of a new school day:

- Staggered arrivals and pick-ups to limit interactions - Use of staggered arrival times and marked drop-off areas and asking parents to remain on or outside the school grounds, where possible, can also help with limiting interactions. Schools should also consider discouraging or prohibiting children from bringing anything from home and, at the end of each school day, limiting/preventing shared resources from being taken home. The Education Authority (EA) will develop further operational guidance and provide this to schools, where necessary.

At both arrival and collection times, parents should be actively discouraged from entering the school buildings as a means of preventing spread of the virus. Where parents must enter school buildings, appropriate hygiene measures should be in place

If possible, a one way system should be deployed within the school.

- New Attendance Patterns: Primary Schools - Protective bubble strategy - Maximise full use of school building - Where full classes cannot be accommodated – minimum 40% face to face teaching contact time (remainder by remote learning) - Post-Primary Schools: - Where possible protective bubble strategy (for younger years) - Where full classes cannot be accommodated – minimum 50% face to face teaching contact time (remainder by remote learning).

- Social distancing and increased hygiene measures will be introduced throughout the school.

- Where pupils cannot be in school for all or part of the time, a ‘blended learning’ approach will be implemented.

- Self-Contained Cohorts (Protective Bubbles):

In circumstances in which the guidance on social distancing cannot reasonably be applied, an additional risk mitigation approach should be adopted. This involves organising children and young people into small groups (‘protective bubbles’) with consistent membership, which are appropriate to the size of the setting.