First Minister Arlene Foster hopes all pupils across Northern Ireland will return to school after Easter.
The DUP leader says that “given all the data” on progress with the pandemic situation, she hopes all schools can reopen at that point.
The Department of Education has also confirmed proposed dates this evening for different ages groups to return to classrooms.
Mrs Foster was speaking after the launch of the Executive’s ‘Pathways out of Restrictions’ plan for exiting lockdown today.
Asked if the content of the strategy had been a unanimous decision by Stormont Executive Ministers, she told UTV that she would have preferred faster movement on some issues, in particular the reopening of schools.
“Yes it was a unanimous decision. I think it is important that we do have consensus at this time,” she said. “Obviously some of us take different views in relation to the speed as to how we should go about things.
“I would have preferred that the schools would have opened completely on the 8th of March however the consensus of other Executive ministers was not there.
“I very much hope that in the middle of March we can give that certainty so that we can bring young people back to school after Easter because I think that it is really important to have that.”
The Press Association also reported Mrs Foster as saying that ministers would review education on March 16.
She said: “I hope, given all of the data that is there, that that will mean that everyone can return after Easter.”
She added: “We are asking people to work with us so that we can make this the last lock down. That is what I am focused on because we certainly cannot go back into a lock down again.”
The Department of Education confirmed the following details today on when it plans to reopen schools;-
On 18 February, the Education Minister, Peter Weir announced a phased return of pupils starting with pre-school, nursery and primary pupils in P1 to P3 from 8 March 2021.
Students in years 12 to 14, who will be awarded qualifications this summer, will return to full time face-to-face teaching with effect from March 22.
Remote learning will resume for pre-school/nursery children and pupils in P1 to P3 for the week beginning March 22 until the start of the Easter holidays.
Pre-school, nursery and primary schools pupils in P1 to P3 will then return to full-time face-to-face teaching after the Easter holidays along with years 12-14.
Mr Weir said: “I have always sought to be guided by the prevailing public health advice and scientific evidence, while recognising the priority the Executive has placed on education, and all the benefits that brings, not just in the short term, but also for longer term societal and economic benefits.
“My main objective is a full return of all pupils to school as soon as practicably possible which has to be balanced against the public health position.”
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