Stormont Executive agrees timetable for full school return in NI

David Young and Rebecca Black, PA
·2-min read

Stormont ministers have agreed a timetable for all schoolchildren to return to classes in Northern Ireland.

Primary pupils in years P1 to P3 are already back in classes and secondary school children in year groups 12 to 14 are due back on Monday March 22.

The PA news agency understands that ministers have now agreed that remaining primary pupils in P4 to P7 will also return on March 22.

The final cohort, secondary pupils in years 8 to 11, will go back to classes on April 12 after the Easter holidays.

Coronavirus – Mon Mar 15, 2021
Locked gates at St Brigid’s Gaelic Athletic Club grounds in Musgrave Park, Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

The proposals from Education Minister Peter Weir were agreed by Executive colleagues at a meeting on Tuesday morning.

The meeting will also see the wider lockdown restrictions reviewed.

Some relaxations are anticipated, with some outdoor sporting activities set to be given resumption dates.

Ministers adjourned on Tuesday morning to allow Health Minister Robin Swann to participate in an Assembly debate. They were due to reconvene around 1pm.

Ministers will then consider a range of lockdown easement proposals in a paper tabled by Mr Swann.

They include:

– Golf courses to reopen from April 1 (clubhouses to remain closed).
– Ten people, from no more than two households, able to participate in outdoor sporting activities from April 1.
– Click and collect purchases allowed from garden centres and plant nurseries from April 1.
– Click and collect at all non-essential retail outlets from April 12.
– ‘Stay at home’ rule lifts on April 12.
– Outdoor sports training to resume from April 12 with no more than 15 participants in one group.

Coronavirus – Tue Mar 9, 2021
First Minster Arlene Foster will announce the decisions in the Assembly later on Tuesday (Liam McBurney/PA.

If the Executive endorses these proposals, ministers will review the health data on Thursday April 8 ahead of giving final go ahead for the measures due to come into force on April 12.

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill will go to the Assembly later on Tuesday to outline the decisions.

Northern Ireland has been living under restrictive lockdown measures since a spike of coronavirus cases in December.

The Executive published its Pathway Out Of Restrictions blueprint earlier this month.

It includes five steps along nine pathways – retail; hospitality; education and young people; work; culture, heritage and entertainment; sports and leisure; travel and tourism; worship and ceremonies; and home and community.

The five stages of restriction begin with lockdown then extend to cautious first steps, gradual easing, further easing, and preparing for the future.

The plan did not initially include any dates.