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Coronavirus: Retired NI teachers urged to return for Easter

A call has gone out to retired teachers and classroom assistants to help keep schools open amid the coronavirus crisis.

The appeal has been made by Education Minister Peter Weir.

He had previously said some schools would need to remain open over the Easter break to accommodate children of key workers and the vulnerable.

Mr Weir has now written to retired teachers and classroom assistants asking them to volunteer.

In his letter, Mr Weir said retired staff would work alongside existing staff to help them supervise children.

“I am widening the call for volunteers to include all members of schools’ boards of governors, retired teachers and retired classroom assistants,” he said.

“I am asking for your help in a bid to assist our dedicated teaching staff and non-teaching staff in schools who are carrying out this vital role.

“We need you to provide essential support and assistance.”

Virus reassurance

Mr Weir said both teachers and non-teaching staff had already been working hard, but more people were needed.

He reassured those who were thinking of volunteering that Public Health Agency (PHA) guidance in relation to social distancing would be adhered to at all times.

The retired staff and governors have to be under 70, in good health and without possible symptoms of coronavirus, such as a fever or high temperature.

They can register through the Department of Education’s website.

Mr Weir had previously asked for volunteers from the wider education workforce to work in schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to principals and teachers on Friday 3 April, Mr Weir said a significant number of key workers had been unable to get a school place for their children.

He said department data indicated “that there are in excess of 250 children requiring, but unable to secure, places in schools or pre-school settings while their parents provide the critical frontline services we all need”.

However, BBC News NI understands that those figures are disputed by some of the teaching unions.

Figures from the department showed that 748 children attended school on Friday 3 April.

However, 1259 children are expected to need a school place at some point over the Easter holidays.

A total of 267 schools told the department they were prepared to open at Easter and 124 said they could open at weekends.

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