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Parents who don't send children to school over virus fears won't be punished: Weir

Millions of pounds have been allocated for cleaning to help make classrooms as safe as possible, the Education Minister added.

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Education Minister Peter Weir (Liam McBurney/PA)

Education Minister Peter Weir (Liam McBurney/PA)

Education Minister Peter Weir (Liam McBurney/PA)

The Education Department will not take a punitive approach to parents who do not send children to school over coronavirus fears, a minister said.

Millions of pounds have been allocated for hand sanitiser and other hygiene measures to help make classrooms in Northern Ireland as safe as possible, Education Minister Peter Weir added.

Lessons resumed over recent weeks as the level of Covid-19 infection in wider society increases.

Mr Weir told the Assembly: “I do not want the department to be seen to be working in a punitive way.

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Schools have reopened over recent weeks as the level of Covid-19 infection in wider society increases (Liam McBurney/PA).

Schools have reopened over recent weeks as the level of Covid-19 infection in wider society increases (Liam McBurney/PA).

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Schools have reopened over recent weeks as the level of Covid-19 infection in wider society increases (Liam McBurney/PA).

“There is a requirement if you are registered with a school that you are supposed to be attending.

“We do have to get an indication to parents that the risks to children are extremely low.”

The Education Minister said the Public Health Agency (PHA) had fielded a large volume of calls when schools initially reopened but no testing was required in 90% of those cases.

He said: “There is a broad duty for education for young people and I want to see that fulfilled.”

Mr Weir said the number of parents who had decided to hold back their children was “fairly minimal”.

The minister said: “One of the major challenges we have is ensuring parents have the most up to date and precise information.”

He added: “We do have to get an indication to parents that the risks to children are extremely low from the pandemic.

Mr Weir said: “There is a greater risk of the child injuring themselves or even dying at home.”

The minister said it was understandable that some parents will have a particularly strong reaction to returning to classroom in the midst of a public health emergency.

A total of £42 million was made available for restarting schools last month.

The money includes additional cleaning and hand sanitisers and some schools have been closed for deep cleaning.

PA