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Education Minister should have planned for early school closure, says Lyttle

Alliance Education spokesperson Chris Lyttle MLA has said the Education Minister should have planned for early school closure for Christmas.

Mr Lyttle, Chair of the Assembly’s Education Committee, was speaking after the Minister attended the Committee to be quizzed by MLAs on the issue. Several schools have said pupils will not be marked absent if they work at home during the final week of term.

“Teaching and non-teaching staff have shown courage, dedication and resilience to facilitate education during a once in a century public health pandemic that has isolated children and families from opportunity and contact we otherwise took for granted,” said Mr Lyttle.

“The Education Minister should have planned to move schools to remote learning whilst making provision for vulnerable, special school and key worker pupils from December 11. Unfortunately, this may now be impractical for many families.

“The least the Education Minister can do now is to ensure all teaching, non-teaching staff and children break for Christmas no later than counterparts in England on December 17, which has significance for contact tracing during the Christmas period.

“Any later than this date could have implications for effective contact tracing and the Education Minister must urgently clarify how this system will work for children during Christmas, when the responsibility for its operation could otherwise be with school leaders throughout the holiday.

“It is not too late for the Education Minister to bring some order to this situation but failure to act will add to an increasing record of disengagement and delay.”