Teachers welcome proposal for PHA to take over Covid contact tracing

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By Jonathan McCambridge, PA

A proposal for health officials to take over responsibility for tracing Covid close contacts in schools will allow teachers to return to working with children, a union boss has said.

Teaching unions were briefed on the plan, which still needs to be officially approved, to have the Public Health Agency (PHA) take over contact tracing during a meeting on Wednesday.

The current policy, in which teachers have been largely responsible for tracing close contacts, has been widely criticised.

It is hoped the new proposal would reduce the number of children who are currently absent due to close contact with a positive case and reduce pressure on the PCR testing system.

Speaking following the meeting with education and health officials, principal of Maghaberry Primary School and president of National Association of Headteachers NI Graham Gault said some teachers had been spending all of their time contact tracing.

He said: “With the PHA taking on contact tracing it will free up our school leaders to attend to their core business which is learning and teaching, that in itself will be very, very welcome.

“It has been like nothing we ever experienced before. The rates of transmission across society have been such that the schools have been the victim.

“Principals were basically spending all of their time in many schools doing contact tracing which meant very important aspects of their core business were not getting any attention.”

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