Education Restart - Information and Guidance for Educational Settings

Update from Education Minister 

Statement from the Education Minister to the Ad Hoc Committee on education provision on 6 January 2021

Statement to Ad Hoc Committee - 6 January 2021

At 7pm on 7 January 2021, the Department published Education Continuity Direction Notice No. 2, which gives legal effect to the revised arrangements for school operation agreed by the Executive. 

Education Continuity Direction - 7 January 2021

At 6.20pm on 7 January 2021, the Department published a Cancellation Notice cancelling the Educational Continuity Direction made on 3 January.

Educational Continuity Direction - Cancellation Notice - 7 January 2021

The Education Minister has issued an Educational Continuity Direction to give legal effect to the January 2021 arrangements.

The Education Minister has written to schools regarding revised plans for schools reopening after the Christmas break - 31 December 2020

The Education Minister has written to Principals regarding the Implications of the latest lockdown on the education sector - January 2021

Education Minister Peter Weir writes to all schools and reiterates that there are no plans to close schools early for Christmas - 8 December 2020.

Following the Executive meeting on 6 August 2020, the Minister of Education wrote to all schools to provide an update on decisions in relation to Education Restart.  

Frequently Asked Questions 

The Education Authority has published Frequently Asked Questions for schools covering HR, Finance, Admissions, Health and Safety and Procurement.

New School Day 

Guidance has been developed for education settings to support a safe, phased reopening of schools in line with the Northern Ireland Executive’s “Coronavirus Executive Approach to Decision-Making” published on 12 May 2020.

It has been informed by advice provided by the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor and the Executive’s agreement on 6 August 2020 that the stringent application of social distancing requirements between pupils would be relaxed from 17 August. 

It provides an overarching framework for how schools and education settings 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 education settings and staff to adapt and adopt approaches that best suit their needs.

It has been developed as part of an overall Education Restart Programme, co-designed by the Department of Education, school leaders and key partners. Engagement has also taken place as part of an ongoing process with a consultation group comprising Managing Authorities, trades unions and sectoral support bodies that began in March 2020.

Summary of Key Scientific and Public Health Advice

To promote transparency with regard to the scientific, public health and wider policy judgements that have informed the approach set out in this guidance, the guidance links to relevant published scientific and public health advice. 

New School Day Guidance

Posters - Primary and Post Primary

Education Restart Programme has developed posters for use in schools.  This includes two versions - one for primary and one for post-primary schools.

COVID-19 Home Test Kits - National Testing Initiative

All educational settings in Northern Ireland are to receive ten COVID-19 home test kits under the Department of Health and Social Care's National Testing Initiative.

Attendance Guidance and Absence Recording

A circular has been published to provide schools with guidance on managing pupil attendance and on the use of C2k absence codes.  

Vulnerable Children and Young People


Supporting Staff to Return to School 

As COVID-19 restrictions are eased, schools will be reopening for pupils and staff will be returning to schools.  This guidance includes key considerations and responsibilities and sets expectations on how to support staff returning to the work place.

Information for Parents and Carers

A range of information has been developed for parents and carers and can be accessed here.

A leaflet is available for parents and carers with advice on the steps to take if a child or anyone they live with develops symptoms.  The information contained in the leaflet includes the actions to be taken if: a child develops Covid-19 symptoms; a child is tested positive for Covid-19; another household member has Covid-19 symptoms; another household member tests positive for Covid-19 symptoms.

The leaflet is available in a range of languages.

Standards and Learning 

Advice, guidance, and professional learning resources, to assist teachers in supporting pupil learning through a ‘blended’ approach, if and when full school opening is not possible.

Advice has been provided for teachers and pre-school education professionals supporting learners in the following groups:

  • Pre-school
  • Primary
  • Post Primary
  • Irish Medium
  • Special Education

These resources can be accessed through the Supporting Learning website and C2k 'MySchool'.  

A range of support materials have been published by the Education and Training Inspectorate and can be accessed here.  

A circular has been published to provide advice and assistance to schools in planning for the 2020/21 academic year and to support the wider Education Restart Programme. 

Guidance  has been published to provide clarification to Boards of Governors and schools in relation to the requirements of school development planning for 2020/21, in the context of the Covid-19 outbreak.  The guidance will be kept under review.


The Education and Training Inspectorate have published an update for schools regarding inspection during the recovery period. 


On 18 June, the Education Minister Peter Weir  announced the publication of a Childcare Sector Recovery plan.

The plan aims to restore the childcare sector to pre-Covid-19 capacity levels as quickly as possible.

Details of The Childcare Recovery Support Fund were published on 27 July 2020.  The Scheme will provide a level of financial support to assist the re-opening of childcare provision in July and August 2020 to ensure childcare is available as far as possible for parents who need it, to support economic recovery and return to work in line with the Executive Recovery Plan.

Youth Restart 

The Education Authority, working with the youth sector, has published guidance for youth work organisations to facilitate generic youth services restarting.  The following guides are available:

Public Examinations Guidance 

Guidance to promote safe delivery of examinations and minimise risks in schools and educational settings during public examinations.  

Public Health Guidance to Support Public Examinations

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