Education Minister Peter Weir has announced revised plans for schools reopening after the Christmas break.
This follows recent advice on the current situation of the epidemic, levels of transmission and numbers of cases.
From next Monday (4 January):
- Primary school pupils will be taught remotely until 11 January, after which they will attend school for face to face teaching.
- Post-primary pupils will also be taught remotely during the first week of January. From Monday 11 January pupils in years 8 to 11 will continue to be taught remotely until the end of January while pupils in years 12 to 14 will attend school for face-to-face teaching;
- Childcare settings including those attached to schools, pre-school facilities, nurseries and special schools to be open as usual;
- Exams due to take place in January will be facilitated compliant with public health guidance and schools will have flexibility to deliver face-to-face teaching to pupils due to sit those exams, should they wish to do so;
- Schools will accommodate vulnerable children and the children of key workers from the start of term.
The first day of the normal school term can be used to prepare for the rest of the week.
Youth Service provision will be stood down with targeted services moving online until the end of January.
The Minister said: “The Department of Education, the Department of Health, the Education Authority and the Public Health Agency have worked closely throughout the pandemic to maintain the education of children, to reduce the risk of outbreaks and to respond when these occur. This work has continued in recent weeks and the proposed way forward has been informed by the evidence and the advice provided. The common aim has been to keep schools safe, prioritise children’s education and ensure any impact on overall transmission is as low as possible, while accepting that schools reopening as normal is not sustainable.
“While previous arrangements have been informed by the advice of the Department of Health, unfortunately the deteriorating nature of the epidemic and the risks to public health has necessitated more substantial changes.
“Therefore, having considered the advice from the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Advisor and following discussions with them, I have decided that all primary and post-primary pupils will be taught remotely for the first week of term. Special schools and childcare provision will, however, remain open.
“All schools must provide supervised learning for vulnerable children and key workers’ children.
“I must stress that these decisions are not made lightly as I know the negative impact on children’s learning and mental health and well-being of not being in school. However, particularly after unprecedented levels of positive Covid-19 tests since Christmas, and the pressure this applies to our health service, it is critical that we all must consider the public health and scientific advice as we look forward to brighter days ahead.”