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Letter from Minister Weir 24.03.2020


Rathgael House 43 Balloo Road Rathgill BANGOR

BT19 7PR

Tel: 028 9127 9306

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 24 March 2020

Dear Colleagues

 I firstly want to record my gratitude to many of you for the manner in which you have responded to the very serious threat society is facing from Covid 19. I am greatly encouraged that so many teaching and non-teaching staff have taken the lead in assisting in the educational supervision for children of key and critical workers across Northern Ireland. Yesterday, on its first day of the scheme operating, 519 schools and educational settings were open and available for children and I know more schools and settings have indicated they are also ready to open.

 In communication which issued from my Permanent Secretary on 20th March, and in my statement that afternoon, I advised that guidance would continue to be updated and augmented as the scheme became operational. This is to ensure that school and pre- school leaders can respond to questions and queries that arise on the ground and are able to adjust to fast-moving events as they unfold. I have therefore enclosed further updated guidance taking account of the queries we've received from a variety of sources and I will continue to provide further iterations as the days and weeks unfold.

 Detailed data was collected yesterday about the number of children and staff attending our educational facilities, I am grateful to you for taking the time to forward this information to the department as it allows officials to plan and make adjustments to the scheme as required.

 As we go forward I would like to reinforce the following aspects of the scheme that may be applicable in certain settings:

Where schools and pre-schools wish to work together to create a localised cluster arrangement, i.e. where certain settings in a close geographical area wish to agree collectively to have a 'hub' type setting to service all children within the area, this is permissible where it is sensible to do so and the daily data capture will continue to collect information around local arrangements. Officers from the Education Authority's School Development Service will support schools and pre-schools locally who wish to engage in a collaborative arrangement. This is covered within the amended guidance attached, including who to contact in the EA and the essential information required;

 We need to ensure that critical workers are able to continue to do their important roles, therefore I will seek to ensure that the education sector can continue to provide assistance for as long as possible. However I would reemphasise the message I have previously stated; that parents / carers should only send children to an educational setting if there are no other viable arrangements, schools and pre- schools should be open to vulnerable children or those who have at least one parent/carer who is a key/critical in relation to dealing with the Covid-19 response, and all schools and pre-schools must ensure stringent social distancing rules are in place at all times.

 For the avoidance of doubt I would strongly encourage all settings to play their part in providing this service for our key/critical workers. Thank you for your continued support and I and my officials are available to continue to assist with the details of the scheme as we move forward.


Minister of Education

Update on school closures from Education Minister 23 March 2020


23 March 2020

Update on school closures from Education Minister

Education Minister Peter Weir has provided an update on the position in Northern Ireland’s schools which were closed today for normal business.

Limited education supervision was provided only for children whose parents are key workers and were not in a position to make alternative childcare arrangements.

Yesterday all pre-school settings and schools were sent a survey to assess how many would be open today.

The vast majority of the over 1,000 settings responded, indicating that some 575 pre-school settings and schools would open today, with a total of 793 indicating that they were willing to open later in the week and remain open in the days and weeks to come once preparations had been made.

Pre-school settings and schools are also being asked to complete a short survey each day to establish the actual numbers of children in their premises, so that plans can be updated and adjusted in the days ahead in the light of experience of the key workers’ arrangements.

The Minister said: “Firstly, I want to thank those schools which are open today and those that intend to open in the future.  In these extraordinary times, it is heartening that our principals and staff are showing such leadership and compassion for pupils whose parents are key to the Covid-19 response and to keeping essential services going.

“An early assessment of today’s survey of schools has shown that the number of pupils attending is very small.

“My Department will continue to gather this information and monitor how schools are managing to ensure they remain safe for pupils and staff alike.  Within the overall total there may be particular areas of pressure, and we will wish to address those with schools.

“It is important that parents and carers act responsibly and continue to do so: we must ensure that our schools are safe.”

Continuing, the Minister asked parents and carers to remember that schools are only open as a last resort option for children of key workers who cannot make other arrangements.

He said: “Schools will remain open for staff to allow them to organise remote learning for their pupils and to make provision for supervised learning for vulnerable children and for key workers’ children up to the end of Year 10.  I would again stress that parents and carers should only send their child to school if they are a key worker in terms of the overall response to the Covid-19 emergency and have no other viable option for their child’s supervision.  It seems from today’s preliminary figures that parents and carers are doing just that, and I thank them for it.”

Notes to editors:

  1. Follow us on Twitter @Education_NI
  2. Media enquiries to the Department of Education’s Press Office on 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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Blythswood Shoebox Appeal

Holy Cross Primary School, Kilkeel have collected a fantastic 55 shoeboxes boxes, which were passed onto Blythswood Shoebox Appeal on Friday 22nd November. These boxes will be distributed to Eastern Europe to those in need this Christmas. A massive thank you to everyone who put together a box of presents. These gifts are really treasured by those who receive them.

CCMS Office

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CCMS Telephone: 028 9201 3014