It is those who advocate long school closures who have escaped serious scrutiny, not Peter Weir

News Letter editorial of Thursday March 11 2021:

By Editorial
Thursday, 11th March 2021, 9:00 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The education minister came under fire at Stormont yesterday for not appearing before his department’s scrutiny committee.

Peter Weir was due up yesterday but executive business means he will appear later this month.

Daniel McCrossan, the SDLP MLA, said he had “very little confidence in this minister - principals in my constituency and across the North are contacting me asking me to put questions to the minister before they are told to reopen”.

No doubt many head teachers have questions to ask before classes to resume. But legions of parents have their own questions to ask — about why schools have not already resumed.

Their children are not only falling behind academically, they are losing out on social interaction and sport. In a range of key emotional and learning respects, these young people face stunted development which could do long-term harm.

Far from Mr Weir hiding from scrutiny, it is the advocates of long-lasting school closures who are not facing such. Some of them appear to evade questions about their own stance by going on the offensive against others.

Scientists have legitimate concerns that a full return to schooling could spark a wave of Covid, because it would signal a return to normality and would lead to things such as parents gathering at the school gates.

But in that case a schools return, which should have happened already in full, could have been accompanied by an information and advertising campaign to discourage such complacent thinking.

Children are at barely any risk from Covid. They have made big sacrifices to help protect above all the older generations, who are the most-at-risk large section of the population.

But the UK vaccine rollout means that the great majority of over 60s have now had jabs.

We cannot keep waiting for a return to face-to-face teaching. Mr Weir needs support for his plan to accelerate a return it.

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Alistair Bushe