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NI First Minister Arlene Foster pictured last month.
NI First Minister Arlene Foster pictured last month.
Image: PA

Schools in the North to remain closed as Covid-19 cases soar

The Northern Ireland Executive will meet today to confirm details.
Jan 5th 2021, 7:19 AM 24,640 6

A PERIOD OF remote learning for schoolchildren in Northern Ireland is to be extended amid soaring Covid-19 cases, the First Minister has said.

Speaking last night, Arlene Foster said ministers had “reflected on the seriousness of the situation here” before coming to the decision.

The Executive is to reconvene today to confirm details of the proposal, but it is believed it could extend beyond January.

Foster said: “I think it’s fair to say that we will have to engage in more remote learning at schools.

We want to look at the finer details of that in and around vulnerable children and special needs children.

“One of the learning points from the first lockdown was the fact that a lot of special needs to children need to have the ability to go to their place of schooling so they can deal with medical procedures and issues like that.”

The most recent plan was for primary pupils to be taught remotely this week, while for secondary school Years 8 to 11, remote learning is due to last for the entire month.

It is expected that creches, nurseries and day care centres will remain open for children of key workers, as has happened in England.

In addition to the measures in schools, stay at home advice is to be put into legislation, while the Executive is also set to examine international travel advice.

Foster said: “We will be putting that message of stay at home back into law again.

“The message will be stay at home unless you have a reason to leave home. Those reasons will be put into law. We think that is necessary given the huge rise in positive cases here in Northern Ireland.”

She added: “In terms of travel as well, something we discussed today with the other administrations across the United Kingdom, because we recognise that international travel will have to be reviewed again as well.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said that remote learning would be extended, stay at home advice will be put into legislation and travel rules will be updated.

The Executive is to meet again today, when the Education and Health Ministers are to put forward a set of detailed proposals, including recommendations on this year’s exams.

The government in the Republic is also currently considering the prospect of closing schools for the entire month of January. 

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In a tweet following the Executive meeting, O’Neill said: “In addition to the restrictions already in place….Remote learning will be extended. Stay at home will be put in to regulation.

Travel will be revisited. Education & Health Minister to bring detail of proposals to meeting of Exec tomorrow to include recommendations on exams.

‘Dire’ situation

Northern Ireland faces a “dire” situation as the pandemic worsens, Arlene Foster warned earlier.

The First Minister expressed disappointment about “huge” crowds gathered at coastal resorts.

The country is in the second week of a six-week lockdown in which non-essential retail is closed, and people are urged to stay at home.

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