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Coronavirus school closures, grading and key workers: your questions answered


Schools will be shut for many but remain open for the children of key workers (Dominic Lipinkski/PA)

Schools will be shut for many but remain open for the children of key workers (Dominic Lipinkski/PA)

Schools will be shut for many but remain open for the children of key workers (Dominic Lipinkski/PA)

Stormont minister Peter Weir has set out his plans for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Will A and AS-levels and GCSE exams go ahead this year in Northern Ireland?


So students won't get grades?

They will, but not based on final exams. Instead, the plan is to use a combination of prior achievements, internal teacher-assessed tracking information, predicted grades and "analysis and modelling of existing data trends to provide the necessary assurance about the robustness, accuracy and fairness of the grades being awarded".

Who decides the grades?

The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessments (CCEA) and other exams bodies will work together "to develop a robust process for awarding grades". Further details have yet to be revealed.

Will children still get school dinners?

For those entitled to them, yes, but arrangements have yet to be put in place.

Which schools are closing and for how long?

All schools, in all sectors - from Friday afternoon, March 20th until further notice.

Are all pupils to stay at home?

Year 10 and younger pupils whose parents are key workers in tackling coronavirus and have no other options for childcare will be facilitated. It's not known how yet.

What's a 'key worker'?

Those maintaining essential public services - though the definition is flexible and it may apply to different workers at different times. The UK Government has advised if you can keep your children at home, you must. Key workers have so far been defined as:

  • Health and social care staff including doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers and other frontline services.
  • Education and childcare. This includes nursery and teaching staff, social workers and specialist education professionals,
  • Public safety and national security - civilians and officers in the police (including key contractors), Fire and Rescue Service, prison service and other national security roles.
  • Transport. This will include those keeping air, water, road and rail transport routes operating.
  • Utilities and Communication - staff needed for oil, gas, electricity and water (including sewage) and primary industry supplies, as well as key staff in telecommunications, post and delivery, services and waste disposal as well as journalists and broadcasters.
  • Food and other necessary goods. This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution and sale, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (e.g hygiene, medical etc).
  • Other workers essential to delivering key public services.
  • Key national and local government staff including those in administrative occupations.

Will teachers and other education workers be paid while schools are shut?

Yes. All employees will receive normal pay, and substitute teachers and non-teaching staff (including temporary and fixed term employees) will also receive their normal pay for the period of their contract.

What about pre-school teachers?

Funding for all non-statutory pre-school education settings funded under the Pre-School Education Programme will continue as normal. Departmental funding will also continue as normal for targeted early years interventions including Sure Start and the Pathway Fund.

Belfast Telegraph