Thank you Chief Minister.
The Department for Education, Sport and Culture have been working closely with teachers and other key staff to allow the island’s children to return to their schools.
On Monday 15 all our schools will re-open and those currently in the hubs will return to their local school on the 17.
From Monday 22 June all year 2 and 6 pupils and year 10 and 12 students will be able to return to their own school full time.
I have been contacted by many parents anxious about whether their children will be able to go back to school before the end of this term.
I would like to apologise for any uncertainty and recognise that parents want to have definite dates to plan around.
A large amount of work has been done preparing schools.
Classrooms have been altered, extra hand washing facilities installed and enhanced cleaning regimes devised to ensure our schools are safe places for all pupils and staff.
I would like to thank Mrs Fiona Fitzpatrick for a letter she sent today which included a range of questions from many parents who have been discussing their children’s education online.
She asked us to publish a clear plan to enable all children to return to their schools by the end of July. Next week we will be in a much better position to make sure our schools have the capacity to do this. Classes will be smaller and more self-contained. Staff have been redeployed and lunch times staggered. Whilst I know New Zealand has abandoned the need for social distancing, on the Isle of Man we need to keep our guard up at this time and make sure that we are prepared for any recurrence of the virus. But we will be reviewing the guidance to schools with Public Health and if the health situation remains stable will accelerate the intention to allow reception and year 9 children to return, followed by years 1,4 and 8 and shortly afterwards years 3,5 and 7.
Another question was about developing a plan to manage remote learning. The current health emergency has amplified existing differences between schools use of online educational resources. A lot of development has been done in a short period of time and I would like to thanks teachers for all the work they have put towards supporting parents during this difficult period. We need to share this best practice and introduce a more coherent approach so every parent knows what they can expect from their school.
One of the most important questions was about the effect the closure of schools not only had on a child’s education, but also potentially on their social development and mental health. Children will need to be reassured when they come back to their classroom and teachers will need to spend time exploring their experiences and getting them used to being able to mix again with their friends. The Safer Schools app has been updated to help with this transition and psychological support is available if needed.
At the start of the pandemic there was no question that schools needed to close, but now as they reopen there are many more questions about how pupils will be kept safe and their educational needs met. I will be working with teachers to ensure they have the necessary guidance and support they need to teach and support the children of our island.
From today nurseries and child-minders will start welcoming more young children back to their care. I would now like to introduce Chrissy Callaghan from the department to outline the plans already in place to re-start these services.
Thank you Chrissy. Today sees the opening of applications for pre-school credits which is another way this Government is supporting working families. Parents can apply online at the government website or submit a written application at either the Welcome Centre or the department headquarters in Douglas.
I would now like to hand you back to the Chief Minister.