The Isle of Man Government is working closely with schools as they prepare to reopen later this month. Most schools were closed on 23 March, with the exception of nine primary and five secondary hubs, kept open for vulnerable children and those of key workers.
Last week it was announced all schools will reopen on Monday 15 June - with children currently attending a hub allowed to return to their own school two days later when bus services will also restart.
Careful workforce planning and changes to usual school practices will be essential in this phase and Government is working closely with headteachers to develop clear strategies to safeguard returning pupils and staff. The challenges of accommodating more pupils in schools have been outlined in a roadmap for education.
From Monday 22 June, children in years two, six, 10 and 12 will be the first year groups to return to their schools full-time, although attendance will be on a voluntary basis until September.
There is currently no fixed date for the return of all children but this is under constant review.
Dr Alex Allinson MHK, Minister for the Department of Education, Sport and Culture, said:
‘Any decision to increase the number of children in schools will be made in a gradual, phased approach and based on the latest available health data and on clinical advice. The health and wellbeing of pupils and staff is our main priority.’
‘We are working hard to ensure schools have the right facilities, sufficient staff and correct safety measures in place. This health emergency has proved to be a wakeup call for the value of education and we enter the next phase we must not leave anyone behind.’
The Isle of Man Government will continue to engage fully with those pupils and staff who still need to remain at home and continue to look at remote learning as an option for some.
On Thursday, the Chief Minister announced that nurseries, playgroups and childminders can increase the number of children in their care, with children of those working in the retail sector accepted back from 8 June and any other eligible children from 15 June.
Dr Alex Allinson, said:
‘Whilst I am sure many working families will welcome this announcement it does not mean that all children will be able to return on 15 June.
‘It will be up to each nursery, playgroup and childminder to make their own plan for the phased return and increased numbers in their care – this will ensure a safe and supported transition for each child. Each nursery, playgroup and childminder must plan according to their individual needs and capacity.
‘This may mean that some children will be phased back into childcare over a longer period of time, so it is important for parents to acknowledge and understand that this is for the safety and wellbeing of your child as well as for the safety of the staff.’
Meanwhile, University College Isle of Man will commence a phased return in departments, where it is safe to do so, and will continue providing a limited service to assist students who are completing their courses.