External sports coaches will not be permitted to offer physical exercise support to returning primary school students from next Monday.
It means that no games promotion or development officers from sporting bodies can attend schools to offer support during Level 5 restrictions of the State's Covid-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021 plan.
The news comes as updated Government guidelines were issued to schools today by the Department of Health, who stated that the policy would be re-assessed when restrictions are eased.
In previous correspondence to schools, ahead of younger students returning, external coaches were allowed to attend once certain criteria was met.
In the past, other schools also held virtual sessions with development officers from sporting organisations.
The 'Returning to school Guidance for teaching and learning Junior Infants - 2nd class' document, stated, that the use of an external coach or tutor was at the discretion of a school’s board of management.
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"The Board of Management must satisfy itself that these visitors are Garda vetted, adhere to public health advice, are trained by their governing bodies with regard to Covid-19 and fully implement the school's response plan," the earlier document read.
However, ahead of third to sixth class students returning next Monday, new Department of Education guidelines were issued today.
The 'Returning to school Guidance for teaching and learning 3rd class - 6th class March 2021’ document provides practical advice for teachers as schools recommence face-to-face learning for pupils from third class to sixth class.
Under the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section of this document the question was posed if external coaches could support learning in PE.
"Not during Level 5 restrictions," the guideline stated.
"When restrictions are eased, the board can approve these visitors once satisfied that they are Garda vetted, adhere to public health advice, trained by their governing bodies with regard to Covid-19 and fully implement the school's Covid-19 response plan."
For those eagerly awaiting a return to sport for children, this latest development shows the extreme level of caution being exercised by the Government as the country continues to battle the coronavirus.
In past lockdowns, schools have benefitted from external coaches coming in to hold fun and activities sessions in a safe and responsible fashion.
Organisations such as the GAA ran 'Returning to Schools' courses and modules for all Games Promotion Officers before they resumed work in the education programme.
The change in policy reinforces the belief that, when wider sporting activity does eventually resume, it will most likely be on a very phased and gradual basis.
Meanwhile, the GAA is understood to be still awaiting further clarity from the Government regarding return to activity for children, adult teams and inter-county players.
It’s expected more details will be provided at the end of March, but with a huge degree of caution in public health and Government circles, the GAA will hold off until they receive further guidance before outlining any roadmap for 2021.
Over the weekend squad Gaelic Players Association representatives for inter-county teams will be asked to gauge opinion on suggested formats for the season ahead to be presented to the GAA in the coming weeks.