Coronavirus: MLA calls for extended Christmas school break

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

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Image source, Pacemaker

The SDLP's education spokesperson has called for schools to close for Christmas on 11 December.

The West Tyrone MLA, Daniel McCrossan, made his comments on social media, saying pupils should be taught remotely after 11 December.

The education minister recently dismissed speculation that schools would close early for the Christmas break.

Peter Weir said there were no plans to extend the Christmas school holiday.

"I believe this would only cause further disruption to children's education and lead to an increase in levels of stress and anxiety," he said.

"Anxious parents"

Many schools are due to end their term on Friday 18 December, though some remain open for pupils until early the following week.

But on Wednesday, Mr McCrossan called for schools to close early for Christmas.

"Principals, Teachers and parents are anxious about Christmas & their vulnerable loved ones," he said on social media.

"Close schools on the 11th December and let people learn from home."

"Let people prepare safely for Christmas."

The SDLP has not clarified whether Mr McCrossan's call for schools to move to remote learning from 11 December is a position shared by the party.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has written to Mr Weir to ask "how the current plan for schools to remain open for face-to-face teaching until the 18th December may affect families' plans to spend Christmas with their loved ones."

"Many of our parents are asking what the implications will be for children identified as close contacts of positive cases in the last week of school," their letter said.

"Will they be required to self-isolate over Christmas and New Year, thus negating the opportunity to spend some time with wider family members?"

The NAHT has asked Mr Weir to make a joint statement with Health Minister Robin Swann "so that families can have certainty in respect of expectations over the holiday season".