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First pupils return to schools in Northern Ireland since December

Rebecca Black, PA
·1-min read

The first children to return to school since December will re-enter classrooms across Northern Ireland later.

P1 to P3 pupils will return to class but are set to go back to remote learning after two weeks.

First Minister Arlene Foster has expressed hope that those primary pupils will ultimately be able to remain in school.

Coronavirus – Tue Mar 2, 2021
Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill (left) and First Minister Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

The Stormont Executive is expected to discuss the issue further this week.

On March 22, secondary school children in key exam years – years 12-14 – are to go back to class.

No date has yet been announced for the wider return of all children to school.

The children of key workers have been able to attend since the latest lockdown started in December but many have been engaged in learning from home.

The Stormont Executive published its Pathway to Recovery plan for exiting lockdown restrictions last week.

It sets out an emergence from lockdown in stages, described as lockdown, cautious first steps, gradual easing, further easing, and preparing for the future.

The blueprint does not include any target dates, with ministers instead insisting decisions on moving between stages will be based on scientific and medical evidence, not the calendar.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said ministers hope the process of exiting lockdown will be well advanced by June 10.