COVID Guidance for Special Schools in Northern Ireland April 2022

Purpose of the guidance

The information in this guidance is intended to replace the supplement that issued in January 2021.

As with that guidance, this document has been informed by the scientific and public health advice available at the time of writing and should be read and applied in conjunction with the latest public health guidance available. Given the changing scientific and public health environment, DE may be required to update this guidance in line with the latest advice and as such this should be treated as ‘agile’ guidance in the current context.

It provides guidance on how special schools in Northern Ireland can operate in an ongoing COVID environment, with the aim of ensuring broad consistency and equity across local areas, but is sufficiently flexible to allow special schools and staff to adopt approaches that best suit their and their pupil needs.

The Education Authority (EA) can provide support in relation to the completion of Risk Assessments through a designated EA Health & Safety Officer:

Locality East Brendan O'Reilly 
Locality North Margaret Sludden 
Locality South West Gillian Sterritt 

The Contingency Planning Framework (February 2022)  sets out the expectations on how vulnerable children and young people should be supported in the event that schools and education settings are directly impacted by restrictions put in place as part of a COVID response.

Special schools must work closely with the EA prior to making operational decisions which may reduce provision to ensure all possible actions / mitigations have been explored and exhausted. Schools are advised to record decisions and reductions in provision, where unavoidable and should be kept to the shortest period as possible and reviewed weekly.

The EA will provide details directly to special schools around indemnity in the event that there is an adverse incident in school.

Special schools should also engage with EA Special Schools Support Officers and their Cross Organisational Link Officer (CoLO) around staffing challenges created by COVID related health issues, and any/or other medical or mental health issues present amongst their workforce. 

Contact Details for EA Support Officers:

EA Educational Welfare Officers are also available to provide support.

Schools should liaise as necessary with relevant Health and Social Care Trust (HSCT) staff if you have any queries in the respective areas that already support and provide sessional input to your school e.g. CCN, AHPs etc.

Mitigating Measures

It is expected that special schools will continue to make every endeavour to minimise the risks of virus transmission by implementing the mitigating measures referenced in DE guidance and following public health advice.  Any specific queries in relation to mitigation that need to be considered should be referred to the EA Support Officers. 

Staffing/ support staff shortages

The EA have support in place for special schools to check availability of teaching staff via NISTR and also a new database for emergency Classroom Assistant / Support Staff cover. These can be accessed by contacting the dedicated HR team for emergency resourcing at

Individuals at higher risk of COVID

Those children who were previously identified in the past as being CEV and advised to shield have been advised to return to school from September 2020 and should continue to do so. There will only be a very small number of children who will have received advice from their consultant paediatrician not to attend school. The vast majority of these children would routinely be advised not to attend school even outside the pandemic period due to the risk of infections other than COVID.

SIMS code: For Pupils learning at home – Code ] (Approved Activity) should be used.

EA Pupil Support Services

EA Pupil Support Services remain fully operational, providing a blended approach of remote and in-person support, for the most urgent cases of assessment or support, if required.

In School Testing

Asymptomatic testing in special schools will continue after Easter and will be kept under review. It may continue until the end of June.


The EA will continue to work with schools in terms of procuring suitable and robust PPE for staff and any issues around the supply order should be raised with the EA for resolution. 

Information is available on the EA website on the correct procedures for donning and doffing of PPE.

Special schools are asked to continue to work closely with the EA, PHA and HSCTs with regards to the particular arrangements required for the small number of pupils who require Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGP). The Department has issued PHA guidance to educational settings Guidance for Education Staff in Schools/Preschool/ Childcare Settings for Children/Young People who require Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGPs)

As part of a child’s care including meeting the requirements outlined in the child’s statement of special educational needs, it may be necessary for HSCT staff to visit schools. HSCT staff will be wearing appropriate PPE in line with HSCT policy and will work within DE and the school’s COVID management arrangements.

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