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Lessons to go online in Northern Ireland if schools closed because of coronavirus

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Pupils will be taught through digital and online platforms if the coronavirus epidemic closes all schools, the Education Authority (EA) has confirmed

Pupils will be taught through digital and online platforms if the coronavirus epidemic closes all schools, the Education Authority (EA) has confirmed

Pupils will be taught through digital and online platforms if the coronavirus epidemic closes all schools, the Education Authority (EA) has confirmed

Pupils will be taught through digital and online platforms if the coronavirus epidemic closes all schools, the Education Authority (EA) has confirmed.

Students preparing for GCSE, AS and A-Levels should continue with their studies and expect to sit their exams as normal - but if schools are closed, Northern Ireland's examination body has a contingency plan in place.

However, the EA's guidance to continue to follow advice issued by the Public Health Authority (PHA) has been criticised by Sinn Fein's education spokeswoman, Karen Mullan, who said Northern Ireland's 40 special schools in particular need tailored information.

She called for the Education Minister to set up a dedicated working group for schools to bring Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK.

She said: "Teachers are telling me there are getting no guidance beyond being told to check the PHA website and that is just not acceptable.

"What is particularly worrying for me is that none of our 40 special schools are being given tailored guidance for their pupils, many of whom have complex physical difficulties which puts them in a high-risk category.

"Our schools need to have a dedicated task force giving them specific guidance around coronavirus, what to do if a staff member or student is diagnosed, and what to do if the school needs to close, and it is not good enough that this hasn't happened already."

Currently, students and staff at two schools in Co Armagh have been told to remain at home until further notice.

An EA spokeswoman said: "Schools and parents are advised to keep up-to-date with the latest guidance from the PHA which is updated on their website regularly. The capacity and provision exists via EA's Education Network service to facilitate teaching and learning outside of the classroom environment through digital and online platforms should schools require it. Contingency planning in relation to examinations is a matter for CCEA."

Exams body the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment said it has already considered the possibility schools could be forced to shut if the spread of the virus escalates.

She said: "Our advice at this time is that examination timetables remain as published and students, schools and colleges should continue to prepare for examinations as usual.

"We already have a broad range of contingencies to ensure the smooth operation of examinations."

Belfast Telegraph