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Statement from Education Minister Peter Weir on extension of partial schools closure


Education Minister Peter Weir has said that schools will continue to provide remote learning until at least 5 March. This extends the previously announced reopening date by two weeks after the February half-term break.


Special schools and childcare / childminding will continue to remain open for staff and pupils and the current restrictions on youth service provision will also remain in place for this extended period.


The Minister said:


“I have consistently stated that, no matter how good the quality of remote learning being provided, the removal of face-to-face learning will have a negative impact on children’s educational experience, with a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged groups and vulnerable children. Any interruption to normal schooling is only done with the greatest level of reluctance.


“My priority is to return to full-time face-to-face teaching for all as soon as possible. The aim would be to start face-to-face teaching in early March, but all actions on resumption will be dependent on the wider public health situation.”


An announcement on alternative awarding arrangements for key examination years is expected shortly.


Continuing, the Minister said:


“It is important that those year groups engaged in learning for key qualifications must be prioritised in any consideration of plans for schools returning. They must have the maximum opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills and understanding required for progression to the next stage of education, employment or training.


“Given the disruption to our children’s education, educational recovery is critical to their future. I will be seeking resources to enable investment in catch up to allow children to make up for the loss of face-to-face teaching over these two academic years, and welcome the agreement in principle by the Executive to this. Core loss to the foundations of education, if missed now, could have a longer detrimental impact on children.”


In relation to school transport and Free School Meals the Minister said that the processes in place will continue.


He said:


“Where children can use alternative means of travelling to school they should do so and the wearing of face coverings for post-primary pupils on school transport will continue to be mandatory.


“For children entitled to free school meals, payments in lieu of free school meals will continue to apply to any child entitled to free school meals who is learning remotely and cannot attend school as a result of the restrictions.”

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