Department of Education says Second stage of phased return to school as planned: Green light for sixth class and fifth-year pupils

The Department of Education, on Monday confirmed that the second stage of phase wise return to the schools will proceed as planned. Children from third to sixth class in primary section and fifth year students in second level can return to their classes.

“If we try so hard to control and prevent the infection measures and adhere to it, we can make the our educational environment safe during this pandemic situation.” The Health Department and HSE were optimistic while they made this statement.

The return of almost 200,000 students in the secondary education sector is still under consideration of the education department and minister of education Norma Foley said that it will purely depend on the progress of our society against the virus. The deputy chief medical officer urges the society to try and bring down the number of patients and hospitalizations come down to ensure proper reopening of schools

On 15 March 2021:

  • Primary school classes for third, fourth, fifth and sixth class resume
  • Post-primary school fifth year students also return

On 12 April 2021:

  • First to fourth year post-primary students return to school.

Children attending school

Your child should not attend school if they are displaying any symptoms of COVID-19.

Students at school must keep their physical distance from one another outside of the classroom and work within the classroom in designated groupings or ‘bubbles’.

Schools have introduced:

  • Increased hand washing and sanitising
  • Enhanced cleaning regimes
  • Staggered breaks and lunch times
  • New rules for children using school transport

Staying safe at school

Guidance and supports for schools is contained in the Department of Education and Skill’s Reopening our schools: The roadmap for the full return to school.

The roadmap contains detailed guidance and supports covering:

  • School drop off and collection
  • Hand washing and hygiene
  • Face coverings
  • Maintaining physical distancing
  • Classrooms, bubbles and pods
  • Play and break times

School drop off and collection

  • Many schools will have staggered drop off and pick up times. Students should not gather when they arrive but go straight to their small designated group or classroom
  • Parents and staff should maintain a distance of 2 metres. Walking and cycling to school is encouraged.

Hand washing and hygiene at school

Staff and students should maintain hand hygiene throughout the school day.Liquid soap and water will be provided in school. Hand sanitiser can be used, however, young children should not have independent use of alcohol gel containers.

Students and staff should wash hands:

  • On arrival at school
  • Before eating or drinking
  • After using the toilet
  • After playing outdoors
  • When their hands are physically dirty
  • When they cough or sneeze
  • Moving between classes for post-primary students

Face coverings

Children under 13 years are not required to wear face coverings.

Teachers and secondary school students must wear face coverings, when a physical distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained.All Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) must wear face coverings, or in certain situations clear visors in the class room.

Maintaining physical distancing at school

   Primary and special schools

Schools will reconfigure spaces to maximise physical distancing. The classroom will be clear of unnecessary furniture, shelves and material on the walls. The following physical distancing measures should be followed:

  • 1 metre distance should be maintained between desks or between individual students
  • The teacher’s desk should be at least 1 metre (where possible 2 metres) away from a student’s desk
  • Teachers should avoid close contact at face to face level with students
  • Teachers should maintain a 2 metre distance in staff rooms and staff groups and should wear a face covering where they cannot maintain distance
  • Where possible desks should consistently be used by the same staff and children.

The roadmap recognises that younger children are unlikely to maintain physical distancing indoors.


At post-primary schools, schools can take a common sense approach to decreasing the contact between students. The following physical distancing measures should be followed:

  • Students and teachers should limit their interaction when moving between class, in hallways and other shared areas
  • Student’s desks should be 2 metre distance apart but at least 1 metre distance from individual students or staff
  • Teachers should maintain a 2 metre distance in staff rooms and staff

Classrooms, bubbles and pods

Primary school and special schools

Students may be grouped into class ‘bubbles’ and ‘pods’. A ‘bubble’ is a class grouping which stays apart from other classes as much as possible. Your child may be in smaller group or ‘pod’ within the class bubble. Pods and bubbles help limit close contact and sharing of common facilities between students in different pods and bubbles.

While your child is in a class grouping or bubble they will mix only with their own class from arrival at school in the morning until they leave at the end of the school day.

There should be at least 1 metre distance between individual pods within the class bubble and between individuals in the pod, whenever possible.

Students and teachers should be consistently in the same class bubble although this will not be possible at all times.

Each class bubble should have separate breaks and meal times or separate areas at break or meal times.

Post primary schools

In addition to reconfiguring class spaces and maximising physical distancing, schools may:

  • Review timetables
  • Reconfigure classes
  • Consider use of live streaming within the school
  • Use available spaces within the local community

Students should be assigned to a main class cohort, where possible. They will remain in the classroom for most subjects, with teachers moving between rooms. Classes will be planned to minimise movement during the day.

If your child has an elective subject they should move quickly to the new class and sit with members of their class cohort, while maintaining physical distance.

All students and staff should avoid sharing educational material or personal items such as pens, pencil cases and notebooks. Contact areas of devices such as keyboards or tablets should be cleaned regularly.

Staff and students should limit meeting in hallways and shared areas. Hand to hand greetings and hugs should be discouraged. Where students need to move within the classroom to perform activities or share a resource it should be organised to minimise students meeting at the same time.

Play and break times

Primary schools and special schools, should have staggered breaks and adjust playtime to:

  • Reduce crowding at the entrances and exits
  • Keep students in consistent groups when they play together, where it is not possible to maintain physical distancing
  • Minimise sharing of equipment

Post-primary schools who operate a canteen should:

  • Make sure physical distancing is applied
  • Stagger canteen use and extend serving times to align with class groupings (where possible)
  • Implement a queue management system

If your child becomes unwell at school

  • You will be contacted immediately
  • Your child will be accompanied by a staff member to an isolation area away from other staff and students while maintaining at least 2 metres distance
  • If the isolation area is not a separate room your child will be kept 2 metres away from others in the room
  • If it is not possible to maintain 2 metre distance, the staff member caring for your child will wear a face covering. Your child should avoid touching people or surfaces and use a tissue when they cough or sneeze
  • Your child will be given a face covering to wear if they are in a common area with other people or while exiting the building
  • Your child will be assessed to see whether they can immediately go home or be brought home by you. Public transport should not be used.
  • If your child is well enough to go home, the school will arrange for them to be taken home by a family member and you will be asked to call your doctor.
  • If your child is too unwell to go home, school staff will contact 999 or 112 and tell them that your child is suspected of having COVID-19
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