The Northern Ireland executive has agreed that social distancing of 1m as opposed to 2m is “safe and appropriate” for children and young people at school, in order to allow “full classes to attend”.

The measure is according to guidance being sent by Education Minister Peter Weir to school principals. It also states that the target for reopening schools for key years has moved from 17 August to 24 August.

The letter, which explains how schools may operate when they fully reopen, is due to be published tomorrow (19 June).

Mr Weir said the guidance had undergone “extensive review by the Public Health Agency (PHA) and the Chief Medical Officer (CMO)”.

In the letter he writes: “The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed that the current social distancing guidance of 2m must continue to be followed between all adults within the education sector, but that a distance of 1m is safe and appropriate between children and young people.

“Using ‘protective bubbles’ has been supported by the Department of Health and PHA, and flexing their use to 1m will allow full classes to attend.

“The 1m guidance between children is to be followed as far as possible within the confines of the physical capacity of each classroom and the 2m rule for staff adhered to fully.”

Within the letter he also added that the term will now start for Primary Seven, Year 12 and Year 14 pupils on 24 August.

He said: “To facilitate these arrangements, schools will be opening in week commencing 17 August for preparation purposes,” he said.

Mr Weir added that the guidance “will be subject to ongoing review” depending on scientific and medical advice over Covid-19.

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