Education Minister: “Hard to see all students being back in September" with two metre rule in place 1 month ago

Education Minister: “Hard to see all students being back in September" with two metre rule in place

A roadmap for the reopening of schools in Ireland is due to be published in the coming weeks.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh said it will be “hard to see” all students returning to schools in Ireland in September as long as a two-metre social distancing rule remains in place.

Speaking to Sarah McInerney on RTÉ Radio One on Thursday, McHugh said: "With the two metre rule still in place, it's hard to see all students being back in September."

As per Phase Five of the government roadmap for easing public restrictions to combat the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland, all primary and secondary schools, as well as universities, third-level education and adult education centres, are permitted to reopen on a phased basis at the beginning of the 2020/21 academic year.

McHugh’s comments have cast doubt on the prospect of all students being able to return to schools in September and come the day after Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan told government ministers that public advice on social distancing remained at two metres.

Holohan said the advice was under constant review amid calls for the two metre distance to be reduced to one metre in line with guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO). The WHO maintains that while a distance of two metres is ideal, a distance of one metre would greatly reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Reducing the distance to one metre is a move that many businesses claim would be of huge benefit to their operations and it would also more easily facilitate the re-opening of schools.

McHugh also confirmed that the Department of Education would publish a roadmap for the reopening of schools in two weeks’ time.

Amongst the options being considered for the academic year next year is a blended learning approach, which would see students alternating between lessons at school and home.