Northern Ireland news

Supervised learning for key workers' children to end today

Schools were open only to children of key workers and vulnerable pupils

Supervised learning in schools for vulnerable pupils and children of key workers will end today.

Since March, schools have been closed to most young people.

A few hundred children have continued to attend classrooms during the lockdown.

The scheme was introduced to provide a facility in schools and pre-schools for vulnerable pupils and those of critical workers to allow parents to continue with their jobs.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Limit on outdoor gatherings to be raised to 30

By offering the facility, the Department of Education said, staff would be playing a vital role in ensuring key services, including the health service, could continue to operate.

Children did not experience a continuation of their usual classroom-based, teacher-led education routine, although they were able to access appropriate learning opportunities they would otherwise have accessed at home.

Pupil numbers in schools had been rising every week. Last week, about 2,000 children were attending each day and supported in-school by more than 4,000 staff, with 10,000 available remotely.

There had been suggestions that schools may remain open in the summer, as a small number had done over Easter.

Education minister Peter Weir

However, Education Minister Peter Weir said the current arrangements would end on June 30.

"Support for vulnerable children and children of key workers will need to be reshaped for the summer," he added.

"I am very grateful for the support and provision provided by teachers and principals since 23 March 2020, when schools in Northern Ireland closed for all children except for children deemed vulnerable and the children of key workers.

"Teachers and principals deserve a break over the summer and we are therefore looking at alternative support mechanisms."

Mr Weir said the wellbeing of children remained a primary concern and he recognised that certain groups may continue to need support during the summer months, but with the focus shifting from educational to play and leisure activities.

"To mitigate the impact of ending the emergency educational scheme I have gained the executive's agreement to a number of measures which could support summer activity for these children and young people," he said.

"I can confirm that the Education Authority is currently working with a number of special schools to make summer provision for 2020. It should be noted it will not be in the usual format of previous years given the impact of the pandemic. The EA is working in partnership with special schools to provide ideas and activities online for pupils and also some tailored school based summer schemes. The EA will provide further details shortly."

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