Education news

Number of pupils attending schools falling daily

Most school classrooms now lie empty

THE number of schools open for pupils is declining daily as more children are staying at home.

All schools are now officially shut for normal teaching and learning until after the summer.

However, limited education supervision is being provided for children whose parents are key workers and cannot make alternative arrangements.

Some schools may remain open over the Easter break and have also been asked to consider welcoming children at weekends.

The Department of Education has been monitoring the situation every day.

Principals are being sent a weblink and asked to complete a survey detailing if they are open, and to how many children.

Even schools that are yet to open are asked to complete the short questionnaire.

The results are reported to the education minister, first and deputy first ministers and Westminster.

The department has said the information is vital for planning and reporting purposes in the support given to key workers.

On Thursday, the number of children attending was 848 across 464 schools.

Almost 200 closed schools said they would open in future.

A total of 3,415 teaching staff were available both in school and home on Thursday while 655 non-teaching staff attended.

Thursday's figures represented a drop from Wednesday when 989 pupils were being looked after in 488 schools.

On Tuesday the figures were 580 schools and 1,172 young people.

There is no set limit to the number of pupils a school can admit, as long as guidelines on social distancing are observed.

Parents have been told to send their children in to school only as a last resort.

They were warned they could be in for "difficult conversations" if they had an alternative means of ensuring they were looked after.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, urged employers not to take advantage of the lengthy list of key workers in order to keep their staff in work.

So far, most are keeping their children at home, which has been welcomed by teaching unions.

"My appeal to companies and other employers: Please do not interpret the key workers lists liberally for your own ends," Mr Whiteman said.

"Do not put profit over people. School places are there for the most vulnerable and to keep truly crucial operations running."

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