Children asked to maintain 1 metre distance once schools reopen

A distance of at least one metre should be maintained between pupils when schools reopen in September, the Department of Education has said.

The recommendation will not be a pre-requisite for younger children in the earlier years of primary education because they are unlikely to maintain it.

Where possible, work-stations should be allocated consistently to the same staff and children rather than having spaces that are shared, the official guidance said.

The document said: “Physical distancing of two metres where possible or at least one metre should be maintained between desks or between individual students or staff.

“In future planning, consider moving to individual desks and chairs for students.”

The risk of spread of infection may be reduced by structuring pupils and their teachers into class bubbles which stay apart from other classes as much as possible and discrete groups or “pods” within those class bubbles, to the extent that this is practical, the department’s advice said.

It added: “The aim of the system within the school, is that each class grouping mix only with their own class from arrival at school in the morning until departure at the end of the school day.

“The pods within those class bubbles is an additional measure, to limit the extent of close contact within the class bubble.”

Education Minister Norma Foley said the interim recommendations will inform the development of clear guidelines for implementation in schools.

“We all want to support the education system so that we can welcome our pupils and staff across our school communities back into a safe environment later in the year.

“We will continue to work with the public health experts over the course of the summer to update the interim advice as necessary.”

She acknowledged the hard work that school communities have put in over the past number of months.

“I hope that the planning work being done and the clarity that we provide today will enable each member of the school community to get a well-deserved break and rest during the summer.”