Schools asked to run free summer schemes in NI - ‘there should be a focus on emotional health and wellbeing, as well as activities which are interactive and fun’

Schools in Northern Ireland have been asked to run free summer schemes for pupils lasting up to three weeks in July and August, it has emerged.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 8:08 am

The Department of Education (DE) will pay schools up to £5,000 a week for the running costs of the schemes.

Due to social distancing rules, the number of pupils who can attend will be capped, the BBC are reporting.

But it is not compulsory for schools to run the schemes.

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The majority of pupils spent the first three months of 2021 learning remotely, with all only returning to school after Easter.

There have been concerns from experts about the impact of lockdowns on some children.

The interim mental health champion for Northern Ireland, Professor Siobhan O’Neill, had also previously called for additional summer activities for children and young people in 2021.

On Monday, Education Minister Peter Weir announced £5m in funding to allow youth centres and youth organisations to run activity camps, and to open for longer over the summer.

Enjoying an expedition in the playground. pic Richard Ponter

Now DE has published guidance on separate summer schemes schools are being asked to run.

Schools have been told that any scheme should “ideally be three weeks in duration” but they can run for one or two weeks.

The exact dates on when the schemes take place in July and August is also up to schools.

DE said that the main purpose of the schemes was “to help pupils make a successful return to learning in September 2021”.

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“There should be a focus on emotional health and wellbeing, as well as activities which are interactive and fun, with plenty of scope for outside play, and for learning activities as and where appropriate,” the guidance said.

“It is not about catch-up.”