EDUCATION Minister Peter Weir has said all schools and other education settings will reopen in the first week of January.
He said his “main priority has always been to protect our children’s education, mental health and wellbeing”.
On Thursday, a six-week lockdown was announced for NI.
It will begin on 26 December, with non-essential shops closing after Christmas Eve.
Schools reopened in August having been closed since March and have remained open since with the exception of an extended two-week break for half term.
They did not close early ahead of the Christmas holidays.
And there had been speculation that schools would not reopen in January to stem the spread of the Coronavirus.
Mr Weir said he was “mindful of the impact the pandemic is having on our children and young people, particularly those who are vulnerable and from disadvantaged backgrounds”.
“We have a high number of vulnerable children in Northern Ireland, for many of these pupils school is a safe haven and closing schools will immediately deprive them of this safe space,” he added.
“That is why I have decided that it is in the best interests of all pupils for schools to open in the first week of January so that their education is not disrupted any further.
“I want to again thank school leaders, teachers and staff who have done tremendous work, under very difficult circumstances, to keep schools safe.
“I know that they will continue to reinforce departmental guidance, including the appropriate wearing of masks within schools and on school transport.”
Mr Weir said he would “consider what further steps can be taken to help and support schools and will continue to seek the views of principals, school staff and pupils on this issue”.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) said it would “communicate in strong terms” its members’ “frustration” at what it described as a “last minute decision”.
It called on Mr Weir to reconsider the decision.
SDLP education spokesman Daniel McCrossan said on Twitter that the move was “totally disgraceful” and was “shameful, reckless and risky”.
Sinn Féin education spokeswoman and Foyle MLA Karen Mullan also described it as “disgraceful”.Tags: