Education Restart – Guidance for Schools & Educational Settings in Northern Ireland 6th January 2021

Education Restart – Guidance for Schools & Educational Settings in Northern Ireland January 2021

From: Education Restart Programme
To: All Schools,
Date: 6 January 2021

Dear Colleague

Guidance for Schools & Educational Settings in Northern Ireland

Education Minister Peter Weir MLA has announced that in light of the current crisis in public health, the Northern Ireland Executive has agreed that the following necessary actions are proposed. These replace the actions set out in the letter to schools of 31 December 2020.

The Minister has stated that any disruption to schooling for a significant period of time will have a devastating impact on children’s educational opportunities and future prospects, as well as being damaging to their mental health and well-being.

No matter how well managed or provided, removal of face to face learning and its replacement with remote learning impacts on children’s educational experience, with a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged groups and vulnerable children. It should therefore be only contemplated as a last resort in extreme public health circumstances such as we are currently facing, and should be maintained for a period no longer than is necessary.

This decision does not suggest that schools are no longer safe places for young people. Instead, limiting attendance is about reducing the number of contacts that all of us have with people in other households.  The Executive has correctly sought to prioritise education and the needs of our young people.

Effective from : Thursday 7th January

  • All mainstream education providers, including pre-school education settings, primary and post primary schools are required to provide remote learning at home to their pupils rather than face to face teaching in school, until the half term break in the middle of February.
  • Remote learning and the removal of face to face teaching should be temporary and last no longer than necessary, and therefore will remain under review by the Executive.
  • Special schools to remain open as usual.
  • Flexibility for post primary schools to allow some face to face revision classes in the first week of term for students taking GCSEs in week two of term.
  • EOTAS provision to continue operating as normal with remote learning for those who do not attend.


In line with this announcement, this short update has been published to reflect recent changes in policy in relation to face coverings and attendance of clinically extremely vulnerable people in the workplace.

In addition, it clarifies concerns raised around special school settings and the number of parents required as key workers for pupils to be provided a place in school.   The information in this update will be incorporated into the full DE Coronavirus Guidance for Education Settings in due course and issued to schools.

Staff should be working remotely where they can do so effectively and fully, but if required by their Principal / line manager to attend school for an essential reason they are expected to do so. Examples include support of vulnerable children or key workers and to conduct essential work which cannot be completed remotely. Required attendance in school would of course be subject to any personal medical or exceptional circumstances.

The Department’s Continuity Direction to schools requires all schools to have due regard to the DE Coronavirus guidance in delivering education.

Provision for Vulnerable and Key Worker Children

Vulnerable children and children of key workers to have access to schools for supervised learning. Vulnerable children include amongst others all statemented children.