Queen’s University now joins Glasgow and Manchester in locking down halls of residence due to Covid-19 outbreaks. Within the first week of the university term, 30 students in Elms Village in south Belfast have tested positive for the virus. Fears of rising infection rates and the limitations of health and safety measures have been ignored by management in favour of forcing lecturers, support staff and students to participate in in-person classes without a uniform policy of sanitisation, mask-wearing and social distancing.
This week sees the reopening of schools in Northern Ireland. Ahead of that, Kevin Henry from the Socialist Party spoke to Susan Parlour, an English teacher and NI Vice-President of the National Education Union, about the approach being adopted by Stormont and the education authorities.
Despite an increase in the rate of infection and moves by Stormont to tighten some restrictions, Education Minister Peter Weir and the entire NI Executive are pushing forward in a pigheaded and dangerous manner to reopen our schools. They are ignoring warnings from education unions that this could be the “next care home crisis”.
The recent announcement by Peter Weir, the NI Education Minister, that all pupils are set to return to school in September full-time will bring mixed feelings for parents and teachers alike, who no doubt will have serious concerns over safety. In order to facilitate this, Weir also announced that previously planned social distancing guidelines would be relaxed.