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Coronavirus: Schools could open over Easter and at weekends to care for children of key staff in Northern Ireland

Only 1,172 children attended schools on Tuesday

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Schools could remain open over Easter and at weekends

Schools could remain open over Easter and at weekends

PA Archive/PA Images

Schools could remain open over Easter and at weekends

Schools in Northern Ireland could remain open over Easter and at weekends to care for the children of essential workers involved in the fight against the coronavirus.

The BBC has reported the Department for Education (DoE) has updated their guidance around schools remaining open.

Education Minister Peter Weir has revealed that just 1,172 pupils attended school on Tuesday March 24, despite 580 schools remaining open.

Schools closed indefinitely last Friday, but many have remained open to provide care for the children of key workers, for example health care staff.

On Tuesday there were no more than 17 pupils at any one school, with 5,686 members of staff on hand to care for the just short of 1,200 who attended.

The new guidance says that one school in an area could act as a "hub" if an agreement can be reached between schools, this would allow them to pool resources and centralise the childcare effort instead of opening a large number of schools to care for a few pupils each.

It said that public sector workers with the necessary security clearance could be used to help care for children in schools in place of staff who were ill, self-isolating or at risk.

It has been suggested that schools may need to remain open at weekends and during holidays to provide childcare for staff in essential roles.

Schools are being asked to facilitate key workers as best they can during the coronavirus outbreak.

"Where possible, we would encourage, pre-education settings and schools to continue to look after critical workers' children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays and consider whether weekend provision can be facilitated," the Department of Education's updated guidance said.

All schools and pre-school education settings are being asked to work together Department of Education's updated guidance

"This will be kept under review."

Schools have been urged to work together in the face of the coronavirus threat.

"All schools and pre-school education settings are being asked to work together," the guidance said.

"This may include the attendance of staff at a setting other than their own or the attendance of children at a setting other than their normal setting."

"Where schools wish to work together to create a localised cluster arrangement, whereby certain schools in a close geographical area wish to agree collectively to have a 'hub' school to service all children within the area, this is permissible where it is sensible to do so."

The Education Minister paid tribute to staff who were continuing to work through the coronavirus outbreak.

"My sincere thanks to all staff who are supervising key worker children. You are making a real difference in this fight," the Education Minister.

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Concerned: Justin McCamphill

Concerned: Justin McCamphill

Concerned: Justin McCamphill

Speaking on Tuesday the NASUWT, Northern Ireland's biggest teachers' union, said it would not agree with teachers having to work over the Easter period.

Northern Ireland national officer Justin McCamphill said: "During the period of continued closures, some schools may seek to provide childcare to priority households outside of term time (e.g. during the Easter holidays).

"However, I have not been made aware of any plans by the Department of Education to direct schools to open.

"The NASUWT recognises that some staff may agree voluntarily to support such provision.

"It is important that where teachers volunteer in this way there is clarity on how staff will be appropriately remunerated and with regard to insurances and indemnification.

"The NASUWT does not agree that teachers may be compelled to work during holiday periods."

Belfast Telegraph