Weir publishes new school day guidance for special schools

Date published: 26 June 2020

Guidance setting out how special schools should plan for the new school day has been published.

The guidance is a supplement to the ‘New School Day’ guidance which was issued on 19 June.

Education Minister Peter Weir said: “I have already stated that I want to see a return to full-time classroom-based learning for all pupils, as soon as possible and when it is safe to do so.

“Pupils who attend special schools are among our most vulnerable children and young people. These pupils, their parents and carers have been significantly impacted by the lack of structure and learning that schools provide to them.

“I am aware that many special schools have expressed concerns about the number and complexity of considerations in relation to the safe reopening of their schools, including staffing levels and ensuring the right levels of support are in place for pupils.

“The key objective of this document is to ensure that services to vulnerable children and young people, including those with Special Educational Needs, are re-instated in a safe and effective manner when schools return to operation.”

Earlier this month it was confirmed that schools will reopen for staff from 17 August and for priority groups of pupils from 24 August.

The Minister said: “I appreciate that this model may not be possible for all special schools as some children who attend are as young as three, while other settings may only be a nursery, primary or post-primary.

“This guidance promotes a flexible approach for the reopening of special schools but they should still aim to have some children returning to school from 24 August 2020. My objective is to maximise face-to-face teaching time for all pupils at the earliest opportunity.”

Notes to editors: 

1. A copy of the guidance is available here: https://bit.ly/2ZdtK16

2. The New School Day guidance was published on 19 June and the Special Schools guidance is a supplement to that document. The Special Schools guidance was co-designed with members of the Special Schools Leadership Group (SSLG) and the Education Authority (EA). Comments of the guidance were also received from teaching and non-teaching unions, Managing Authorities and sectoral support bodies.

3. This guidance focuses on the re-opening for Special Schools and sets out the key considerations for this journey. It should be read in conjunction with the Guidance for the Re-opening of Schools – New School Day  and Pre-School Education. The Vulnerable Children and Young People guidance was issued by the Department on 10 April 2020 which provided advice for vulnerable children on attending school during the Covid-19 pandemic, this advice remains relevant for schools restarting for the new academic year.

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6. The Executive Information Service operates an out-of-hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.                             

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