Updated 1.35pm, adds statement from church schools

Older students returning to school on Wednesday or Friday as part of the government's reopening plan will be following classes online before returning to their desks, it has been confirmed. 

The government announced the staggered reopening of schools on Wednesday. Primary students will be heading back to their classroom on Monday, those in middle school on Wednesday, those in secondary school on Friday. 

But details on the return to school have been scant, despite the lengthy press conference held on Wednesday, prompting parents and educators to complain they were being left in the dark. 

Parents who spoke to Times of Malta said they were not sure whether the holidays would be extended by a few days for those students not heading back on Monday or whether the children would be expected to turn up for online classes. 

On Thursday, an education ministry spokesperson confirmed to Times of Malta that remote learning will resume in the same way it was before the Easter break for those students not back on Monday. 

Church schools

When it comes to church schools, those at kindergarten and primary levels will open on Monday. Those that had been following a system of alternate attendance will continue following that system.

Secondary schools will start taking back students on Wednesday/Friday but online lessons will take place from Monday. Each school will take its own decision about which years and classes are to physically attend from Wednesday or Friday. Some are also following a system of alternate attendance because of space problems. Some fifth formers in church schools have exams on Wednesday.

Discussions will be continuing about the possibility of physically reopening sixth forms in line with health protocols.

Church and independent schools may take a different approach since they are only guided by the procedures adopted by state schools and can decide to have everyone return to their desks on the same day.

Speaking during Wednesday's press conference, Prime Minister Robert Abela, Health Minister Chris Fearne and public health chief Charmaine Gauci all highlighted the importance of children being in school. 

The trio said this was why the government was prioritising education over other sectors. 

They also said some 86 per cent of teachers have been vaccinated and so the return to school was even safer. Teachers were bumped up the vaccination list in January following a strike by the Malta Teachers' Union. The strike was called after the the government refused to move lessons online despite a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Reacting to the reopening of schools, the MUT welcomed the staggered approach but also warned "hundreds" of educators had yet to receive a vaccination appointment for their first dose. The more contagious UK variant, it said, was also infecting children in greater numbers. 

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