Michael Staines
Michael Staines

18.35 12 Aug 2020


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Newstalk reporter Henry McKean visited three schools in Dublin this week to find out how preparations are going for the coming year.

Around 930,000 students are returning to school for the first time since March and, when they do, they will face a very different learning experience.

Schools might allow mask-free breaks outside, during school term

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

Kathy Jones, Principal of the Bremore Educate Together school in Balbriggan said students and teachers will have to do all they can to keep each other safe.

“We will have to build in movement breaks and breathing breaks for the students where they can go outside, maybe remove the mask for a little while and go back in,” she said.

“There will be some students that maybe have sensory issues or additional needs and it may not be possible – and for staff as well – to wear the mask all day.

“We will have to be cognisant of that and make sure we put in an allowance to make sure we look after those students.”

She said she is “looking after the wellbeing of all of the school community” when student’s return.

“Not just the students in the school but the families they go home to,” she said. “Our students may not be able to see their grandparents or our staff may not be able to see their grandparents because they are in a building of 500 people.”

Ms Jones said teachers will have to be “really inventive” to keep students entertained during longer classes.

“The students will come back and they will be in exam conditions – in a room all day,” she said.

“They are used to moving around, they are used to doing group work and inquiry-based learning - which they will be able to a do a little bit of.

“But it will be up to our teachers to be really inventive and make sure they are keeping the students entertained so it is not back to the 1900s where it is exam conditions all day.”

Meanwhile, Michael McHugh from O’Connell Secondary School in Drumcondra said teachers are nervous but confident they can make things work.

“We will put everything in place that will make it as feasible as possible to keep children apart as much as possible,” he said.

“Teachers by their nature are innovative people and they will come up with strategies and ways of keeping children apart but again, children by their nature want to play and interact with each other.

“Their whole life has involved coming to school, meeting their friends and playing with each other and it is very difficult to turn that on its head in the space of a couple of weeks - but we will put systems in place.

"We will be staggering breaks and we will have bubbles and pods in classrooms to keep them apart as much as possible.”

Ringsend College Principal Paul Ryder said he has developed a 40-page document on the return to school that is constantly evolving.

He said one of the biggest challenges will be the extra manpower needed for smaller classes.

“This classroom has 20 desks and they are socially distant,” he said. “Prior to this we would have had 24 to 26 or even 30 in one of our senior classes.

“That can no longer happen so in that situation, the class needs to be split.

“When a class needs to be split, I need an additional teacher on hand. If that has to happen five or six times a day, or even more, that is extra manpower.”

Ms Jones said the return to school is likely to result in a cluster somewhere; however, it is important that management respond in a quick and effective manner.

“I believe there will be clusters,” she said. “If there is a cluster or an outbreak in our school, we will follow the guidelines laid out by the Department of Education.

“We have to follow them to the letter – that is my responsibility. As principal, it is my responsibility to try and maintain a sense of calm and order in the school and to communicate effectively with the school community.”

You can listen back here:

Schools might allow mask-free breaks outside, during school term

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    


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