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28/10/2021

Majority of pupils in Northern Ireland will not return to school until March 8

Stormont says it is too early to reopen schools fully

classroom

Most classrooms will remain empty until March 8.

The majority of pupils in Northern Ireland will not return to school until Monday, March 8, at the earliest, the Northern Ireland Executive revealed this afternoon.

First Minister Arlene Foster said the ongoing public health situation meant remote learning must continue.

It may also be the case that only some year groups go back to school on 8 March, if a return then is possible.

Mrs Foster said she recognised it would come as a 'disappointment' for many parents and pupils.

"The kitchen table is no substitute for the school desk. It is also important though that we give people a clear view of what is happening so we thought it was important to indicate today that we would not be back before 5 March in schools."

The recommendation had been made by Education Minister Peter Weir due to the ongoing public health situation.

Special schools remain open to all pupils, but only vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers are able to attend mainstream nursery, primary and post-primary schools at present.

Mr Weir said: “I have consistently stated that, no matter how good the quality of remote learning being provided, the removal of face-to-face learning will have a negative impact on children’s educational experience, with a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged groups and vulnerable children. Any interruption to normal schooling is only done with the greatest level of reluctance.

“My priority is to return to full-time face-to-face teaching for all as soon as possible. The aim would be to start face-to-face teaching in early March, but all actions on resumption will be dependent on the wider public health situation.”

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