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Coronavirus: 575 schools and pre-schools opened on Monday to cater for key workers’ children

The Minister said a 'very small' number of pupils attended and reiterated it was a 'last resort option' where no alternative arrangements could be made

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Some 575 schools and pre-schools across Northern Ireland opened on Monday to accommodate the children of key workers employed on the front line in the fight against the coronavirus.

A total of 793 others have indicated they are willing to open later in the week and remain open in the days and weeks to come once preparations had been made.

At the same time, the Education Minister has reminded parents and carers that schools – which closed their gates on Friday – should only be looked at as “a last resort option for children of key workers who cannot make other arrangements”.

Schools were generally closed yesterday for normal business.

Limited education supervision was provided only for children whose parents are key workers and were not in a position to make other plans to enable them to continue in their work.

On Sunday all pre-school settings and schools were sent a survey to assess how many would be open on Monday.

They were 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.

Minister Weir thanked those which opened on Monday and those which intend to open in the future.

He said: “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 [yesterday]’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.

“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 [yesterday’s] preliminary figures that parents and carers are doing just that and I thank them for it.”

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