19/03/2020

Head Teachers Union Welcomes School Closures

The National Association of Head Teachers has welcomed the news that all schools in Northern Ireland will close from Friday.

Speaking after Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill confirmed the closure, which comes amid the coronavirus outbreak, director of NAHT Northern Ireland Helena Macormac said school leaders and teachers will do all they can to limit the impact on pupils.

Remote learning and home-study packs are in preparation, with the closure likely to continue into the summer period.

Ms Macormac commented: "NAHT Northern Ireland welcomes the announcement to close all schools.

"Details of how we can support vulnerable children and children of key workers are yet to be finalised, but school leaders and teachers will want to be part of the Northern Ireland wide response.

"Schools play a pivotal role as part of the social fabric of our communities, and we will work with the government to make sure the support systems are in place to ensure key workers can remain in work."

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman added: "School leaders have been under immense pressure in recent days and have worked tirelessly to support their staff, their pupils and their families. As committed public servants, they will want to continue to play their part during these times of uncertainty."

Schools across England, Scotland and Wales will also close from Friday.
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Confirming the news on Wednesday, the First and deputy First Ministers acknowledged their political differences but said they are both mothers, daughters and sisters trying to do the right thing as politicians.

Ms Foster said: "The societal and economic impact of this measure will be enormous as parents have to adjust their routine to deal with this unplanned long-term closure.

"Our medical advice was to delay this step for as long as possible as the closure will likely take us beyond the natural break for summer.

"This is unprecedented.

"We are exploring how our schools can continue to be a base for the education of children whose parents are health service staff or other key workers such as the blue light services.

"Educating our children also cannot cease."

The Department for Communities is exploring ways to continue the provision of free school meals. Further clarification on A-level and GCSE exam provisions is expected.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill welcomed the outpouring of community support that has emerged in recent days.

"This virus has changed everything," the Sinn Fein Vice President said.

"It cannot be business as usual.

"This is already impacting our economy, businesses, public services, jobs, and people's livelihoods.

"And it's a very difficult time and we know you need our full support and resources.

"It does your heart good to see the community response that is already happening on the ground, people are amazing and our greatest asset.

"I thank every one of you. And we are going to need that community spirit in the days ahead."



(JG/CM)

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