A DUP MP has said the impact of Covid-19 in primary schools in Northern Ireland has been "minuscule" and that all schools in Northern Ireland should be reopened at the start of March.
The NI Executive will be reviewing the current restrictions next week, with the current lockdown due to end on March 5.
Carla Lockhart MP said that the top priority for the Executive should be to allow schools to open again and added that it has now become unsustainable to keep primary schools closed.
"While some children adapt well to home schooling it must be remembered that for many children and young people they will not be progressing in their education as they should be or need to be," the Upper Bann MP said. "Many parents are still working with limited time to support children, internet provision in some areas is a hindrance, those with special education needs are not supported as they need to be and there is also a significant cost implication of home schooling that is a lot for households to bare.
"With all this in mind we need to see the Executive make school reopening the highest priority, particularly in relation to primary schools. The impact on the R-rate was always minuscule.
"So now with the overall R rate under one, it is unsustainable to keep primary schools closed."
She said that with Scotland now moving towards reopening schools, Northern Ireland should be following the same schedule.
"Education and the personal, social development of children is so important," she said. "These children have sacrificed enough to help the fight against Covid but now is the time for the Executive to put these children's interests at the top of the priority list. Scotland is moving towards reopening for some primary school children later this month. Northern Ireland should do the same at the start of March.
"Ahead of this we should be looking to vaccinate teachers, school staff and those transporting children to school, and making schools as safe as possible."
The Executive has agreed to move teachers in Special Education further up the list of those due to receive Covid vaccinations, but while the Education Minister has said he would support a further move to have all teachers vaccinated as soon as possible, no decision had yet been made.