NI Education Minister wants all children back in school by April 12

Stormont’s Education Minister has tabled proposals to accelerate the return of children to classes in Northern Ireland.

By David Young, PA
Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 6:21 pm

Peter Weir wants all primary school children to be in classes by March 22 and all secondary school children back at school after the Easter holidays on April 12.

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It is unclear whether any of the proposals will be approved by the Executive.

Northern Ireland Education Minister Peter Weir during a visit to Springfield Primary School in Belfast this week. (Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire)

Stormont health advisers have previously stressed the need to stagger the resumption of face-to-face learning to provide sufficient time to analyse the impact of each phase on Covid-19 infection rates in the community.

Thousands of P1-P3 pupils returned to classes for the first time since December on Monday. Pre-school and nursery children also returned.

Under Stormont’s current phased plan for school return, the next pupils to resume face-to-face learning are secondary school pupils in key exam years, year groups 12-14, on March 22.

The P1-P3, nursery and pre-school children are supposed to resume remote learning in that week to minimise the impact on community infection rates of the secondary school return.

No date has yet been confirmed for the return of the wider school population.

Mr Weir wants to cancel the plan to bring young children back out of classes on March 22.

He also wants all other primary school pupils – P4 to P7s – to get back into a classroom on that date.

Mr Weir is proposing that the remaining cohort of children – secondary school years 8 to 11 – would return to class after the Easter holidays on Monday April 12.

On a visit to a primary school in Belfast on Monday, Mr Weir gave a strong indication of what his paper to Executive ministers would contain.

“While there’s been lots of great work that’s being done by remote learning by schools, lots of great work, tireless work being done by parents, you know there’s no substitute for children being directly in school themselves on a face-to-face basis,” he said.

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