A key priority for my Department is to minimise the impact of school closures on the educational attainment of young persons due to the Covid 19 crisis. We are currently undertaking a number of actions to ensure this.
Guidance has already issued to primary and post-primary schools to help ensure the continuity of teaching and learning, to support those with Special Educational Needs, those in areas of educational disadvantage, and to help support the wellbeing of all learners. Guidance will issue shortly which will include information to support learners at each of the key stages of transition.
This guidance has been developed in consultation with the management bodies and unions from both sectors which will continue for the foreseeable future.
The aim of distant learning approaches is to ensure that children stay connected with learning to facilitate progression to the next level of their education. School communities have been learning to adjust and adapt to the challenges they face at this time and have taken up the challenge of staying connected with their students for teaching, learning and maintaining the social connections and supports that are so important for young people’s wellbeing.
It is recognised that schools continue to be best placed to make decisions about how to support and educate all their learners during this period. Analysis of the gaps in learning for all their learners and how these gaps will be addressed can begin before the school term ends but in practice, it may not be possible to determine, except in broad terms, until students return to the classroom. My Department will provide guidance and assistance to schools.
With regard to the reopening of schools in the autumn a group has also been established within my Department. At present this involves two strands:
- the logistics of reopening; health and safety; hygiene; social distancing, etc. and
- curriculum considerations, i.e. what needs to be put in place to support ongoing progression for learners and addressing any shortfall that may result from school closures.
My department will continue to issue advice and guidance to schools as appropriate, in accordance with the advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team, in order to mitigate any impact on the educational attainment of young persons.