Minister confirms majority of schools open for children of key workers

Mon, 23/03/2020 - 18:38 -- Editor

Education Minister Peter Weir has provided an update on the position in Northern Ireland’s schools which were closed today for normal business. 

Limited education supervision was provided only for children whose parents are key workers and were not in a position to make alternative childcare arrangements.

Yesterday all pre-school settings and schools were sent a survey to assess how many would be open today.

The vast majority of the over 1,000 settings responded, indicating that some 575 pre-school settings and schools would open today, with a total of 793 indicating that they were willing to open later in the week and remain open in the days and weeks to come once preparations had been made.

Pre-school settings and schools are also being asked to complete a short survey each day to establish the actual numbers of children in their premises, so that plans can be updated and adjusted in the days ahead in the light of experience of the key workers’ arrangements.

The Minister said: “Firstly, I want to thank those schools which are open today and those that intend to open in the future.  In these extraordinary times, it is heartening that our principals and staff are showing such leadership and compassion for pupils whose parents are key to the Covid-19 response and to keeping essential services going.

“An early assessment of today’s survey of schools has shown that the number of pupils attending is very small.

“My Department will continue to gather this information and monitor how schools are managing to ensure they remain safe for pupils and staff alike.  Within the overall total there may be particular areas of pressure, and we will wish to address those with schools.

“It is important that parents and carers act responsibly and continue to do so: we must ensure that our schools are safe.”

Continuing, the Minister asked parents and carers to remember that schools are only open as a last resort option for children of key workers who cannot make other arrangements.

He said: “Schools will remain open for staff to allow them to organise remote learning for their pupils and to make provision for supervised learning for vulnerable children and for key workers’ children up to the end of Year 10.  I would again stress that parents and carers should only send their child to school if they are a key worker in terms of the overall response to the Covid-19 emergency and have no other viable option for their child’s supervision.  It seems from today’s preliminary figures that parents and carers are doing just that, and I thank them for it.”