The NI Assembly will meet today at midday to talk about helping schools to stay safely open as the pandemic creates staffing pressures.

The media notice from the NI Assembly on Monday 10th January said: “Having received a valid notice from 30 Members, the Speaker has issued a notice this morning for a sitting of the Assembly at 12pm on Monday 10 January 2022 to debate the following motion:

“The purpose for which the Assembly has been summoned to meet is to debate the following motion:

That this Assembly expresses its support for keeping schools open and operating in a manner that is safe for pupils, parents, teachers and staff; further expresses serious concern at the lack of planning by the Minister of Education to ensure the safe reopening of schools in the context of the increased transmissibility of the Omicron COVID-19 variant; recognises the staffing pressures that increased transmissibility will present for schools; and calls on the Minister of Education to urgently develop a plan that puts the safety of pupils and staff first, through the installation of air monitoring and air filtration devices in all classrooms, and addresses the staffing pressures facing the education system by utilising and deploying additional teaching capacity to keep schools open and safe.”

We reported last week on the mounting calls for school support. NI teaching union NASUWT said the situation in schools was “dire”. MLA Claire Sugden made a public call for teaching graduates to be drafted in to ease staffing pressures in schools, saying that keeping schools open is “vital for our children’s wellbeing”.

Koulla Yiasouma, NI Commissioner for Children and Young People voiced her concern, saying that children and teachers alike were “worried”. She said that the NI Executive needed to “make speedy decisions on the allocation of necessary resources to ensure that schools have adequate air filtration systems, lateral flow testing for pupils and that there are creative decisions with regards to the deployment of suitably qualified staff to educate our children.”

The Assembly meeting will be livestreamed here: https://niassembly.tv/

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