Call for 'urgent action to protect schools from Omicron'

Teachers in Northern Ireland have called on the Executive to take "urgent action" to reduce the risk of disruption to education posed by the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

It comes ahead of the return to school next week.

Justin McCamphill from the NASUWT union voiced concerns about the safety of both staff and students.

"Our main concerns relate to the number of cases that are in the community and the impact that's going to have on staffing in schools," he told UTV.

"We believe that the system is not prepared for what's going to hit it this week, we're going to have schools returning but principals are going to have no idea in terms of how many staff are going to turn up.

"We're also really concerned about the steps that the Executive is failing to take to protect schools and teachers.

"We're calling on the Executive to provide proper air-cleaning units to all schools and to return to a proper definition of close contacts within schools."

In a letter to principals ahead of the new term, the Department of Education provided assurances that it is "working closely with its partners across the education and health sectors" to support schools.

The letter said mitigations have been put in place "to protect schools and minimise transmission", and said the department will "continue to monitor the situation closely".

Meanwhile the Executive is due to meet later this week to discuss the latest Covid-19 restrictions.