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EDUCATION MINISTER | Schools to return in January


Education Minister, Peter Weir, today said that all schools and other education settings will reopen in the first week of January.


The Minister said: “My main priority has always been to protect our children’s education, mental health and well-being. I believe that this can best be achieved through face-to-face learning and social engagement in schools.


“I am mindful of the impact the pandemic is having on our children and young people, particularly those who are vulnerable and from disadvantaged backgrounds. We have a high number of vulnerable children in Northern Ireland, for many of these pupils school is a safe haven and closing schools will immediately deprive them of this safe space.


“That is why I have decided that it is in the best interests of all pupils for schools to open in the first week of January so that their education is not disrupted any further.


“I want to again thank school leaders, teachers and staff who have done tremendous work, under very difficult circumstances, to keep schools safe.


“I know that they will continue to reinforce departmental guidance, including the appropriate wearing of masks within schools and on school transport.


“For my part, I will consider what further steps can be taken to help and support schools and will continue to seek the views of principals, school staff and pupils on this issue.


“Finally, I want to wish principals, school staff, pupils and everyone who works in education a Happy Christmas. The New Year will bring challenges but by continuing to work together we can get through this.”


Below: Letter from Peter Weir to school Principals




NASUWT - the largest teacher’s Union in Northern Ireland have responded to the letter from the Education Minister:


“This letter has just been sent to school principals.


“It is incredulous that the Minister of Education has chosen to email school principals at 8pm on the last day of term to tell them that schools will be fully reopening in January with no more in the way of mitigations than the existing guidance around hand washing, ventilation, using protective bubbles combined with the already mixed messages on social distancing and face coverings.


“Teachers have lived in fear over the past few weeks as infections increased in schools and across the community while there was no intervention prior to Christmas to help reduce the R rate. We now know that Covid will spread rapidly until the 26th December while schools are due to return on the 4 January - this is a disaster waiting to happen. It is an inevitability that education will be disrupted in January as students and staff test positive and colleagues need to self isolate.”