The Education Minister has said pre-school education settings, primary and post primary schools will be required to provide remote learning to pupils until the half term break in mid-February.

Special schools will remain open as usual. The Executive will be keeping the position under review.

Vulnerable children and children of key workers will have access to schools for supervised learning. Only one parent/guardian is required to be a key worker.

Other key points include:

  • Direct payments will be made to families whose children are entitled to free school meals;
  • Childcare settings to remain open;
  • Childminders are allowed to continue their provision.

The Minister said: “Any disruption to schooling for a significant period of time will have a devastating impact on children’s educational opportunities and future prospects, as well as being damaging to their mental health and well-being.

“No matter how well managed or provided, removal of face to face learning and its replacement with remote learning impacts on children’s educational experience, with a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged groups and vulnerable children.

“It should, therefore, be only contemplated as a last resort in extreme public health circumstances such as we are currently facing, and should be maintained for a period no longer than is necessary.”

Turning to public examinations, Peter Weir said his priority has always been to ensure that, if at all possible, exams should go ahead as planned.

“My overriding aim is ensure that our students are not disadvantaged in terms of their qualifications compared with other jurisdictions.  Work is ongoing on this issue as a matter of urgency and I intend to provide further clarity in the next couple of days. Until and unless any announcement is made, students should expect to continue to sit scheduled examinations.”

In a Statement from Economy Minister Diane Dodds on upcoming vocational qualification exams and assessments the minister said:

“In conjunction with my Ministerial colleagues in England and Wales, we have agreed that further flexibilities will be put in place for the January exams and assessments, particularly in relation to BTecs. Learning centres, including further education colleges, schools and training providers, will be afforded additional discretion to determine whether it is appropriate for learners to sit the scheduled BTec exams in January, taking into consideration a range of factors including health and safety and the personal circumstances of their learners.

“Further details will be provided very shortly by relevant awarding organisations and CCEA Regulation and I would encourage learners to contact their learning centres for further information in the first instance. I would like to take this opportunity to pay huge tribute to teachers, tutors, learners and their families for their considerable efforts and dedication during these exceptionally challenging times.”

On Tuesday, AQE announced that the planned transfer assessment tests for January had been cancelled, however there would be a single test on Saturday 27 February, provided that at that time public health guidelines could be adhered to.

 

Nadia Duncan

Author: Nadia Duncan

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