Arlene Foster: Remote learning in Northern Ireland should be for short period

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Remote learning for school children in Northern Ireland should only be for a short period, the First Minister has said.

Arlene Foster expressed concern about the life chances of young people during the pandemic.

Primary pupils are to be taught remotely for the week from Monday January 4 to Friday 8 as the spread of coronavirus surges.

Mrs Foster said: “I certainly don’t want to be in a position of keeping our young people at home.

“It is important that we get young people into schools again, but we have to have remote learning for a short period of time and I hope it is a short period of time.”

Recently her DUP colleague, Education Minister Peter Weir, announced the delayed return for many pupils.

Teaching unions have called for remote education to be expanded to all in nursery, primary, secondary and special schools.

Mrs Foster told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We will do all that we can to keep pupils in school.

“We do recognise that with this new mutant version of Covid-19 there are difficulties and it transmits among younger people, and we have to take that into consideration.”

Coronavirus – Wed Oct 14, 2020
Peter Weir had been facing mounting pressure to delay the return to school (Rebecca Black/PA)

There have been calls for the tests to be cancelled.

For secondary school Years 8 to 11, remote learning would continue throughout January.

Schools would open next week to accommodate vulnerable children and those of key workers.

Childcare settings, including those attached to schools, pre-school facilities, nurseries and special schools, would also open as usual next week.

Mr Weir had been facing mounting pressure to delay the return to school after the Christmas holidays due to worsening infection rates.

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