No plans to extend NI school holidays to combat Covid-19 numbers, minister says

Education minister responds to speculation that ‘circuit breaker’ under consideration

Northern Ireland’s education minister has insisted there are no plans to extend school holidays over Christmas as a way to combat high Covid-19 case numbers. Photograph: iStock

Northern Ireland’s education minister has insisted there are no plans to extend school holidays over Christmas as a way to combat high Covid-19 case numbers. Photograph: iStock

 

Northern Ireland’s education minister has insisted there are no plans to extend school holidays over Christmas as a way to combat high Covid-19 case numbers.

Michelle McIlveen was asked in the Assembly on Monday about speculation that a mass closure of schools prior to the scheduled break was being considered as a “circuit breaker” .

“This was mooted in August before schools started back that there would be a circuit breaker at Halloween and that didn’t happen,” she told Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw. “There are no plans for mass closure or use for circuit breaker in schools at this point.”

Ms McIlveen said school closures and lockdowns had been tough on children and that it was “in all of our interests that we continue to provide access to classroom-based teaching for all pupils”.

“I think really as a society, while we are very conscious of watching out for the health service, I think we need to be very mindful that we watch out for our schools,” she said, adding that it was important to ensure behaviour outside classrooms mirrored the steps to prevent transmission within schools.

The North’s Department of Health reported the death of one more person with Covid-19 on Monday and a further 1,635 confirmed cases of the disease.

A total of 301 people with Covid-19 were receiving hospital treatment in Northern Ireland, including 34 patients in intensive care. – PA