Thank you Chief Minister
Yesterday was difficult for many young people as they said goodbye to their teachers and friends for the next three weeks.
All our schools, nurseries, playgroups, childminders and UCM are now closed to the majority of our children.
We did not take this decision lightly.
Our island is facing another assault from COVID-19 but this time a mutation has made it spread faster than before. That is why testing, tracing and isolating cases is so important.
We all have a role in this, but especially those individuals who have already tested positive.
Since yesterday more positive cases have been found in our school community.
At St Ninian’s Lower school all of year 7 and 8 and identified staff are now self-isolating and are being contacted and tested.
At Ballasalla Primary school Years 3 and 4 pupils and certain staff are in the same situation.
I would like to thank all those people for doing the right thing, for staying at home and being tested so that we can do our best to get on top of this situation as soon as possible.
Today vulnerable children and those of our essential workers were able to access their own school.
674 pupils turned up at their primary school and 92 students went to their secondary school. This compares to the first lockdown last year when 259 pupils turned up to primary and 40 went to their secondary school.
Overnight regulations came into force to restrict movement, close premises and intervene in peoples’ lives again for the good of our community.
It is vitally important that parents keep their children at home. It is the safest place for them.
We know the capacity within our schools that we can safely maintain using physical distancing is restricted. Some of our schools are already close to this capacity.
If we continue to be pressured to accept young people who could otherwise be studying from home then this challenges our ability to safely deliver not only teaching in schools but also remote learning.
The criteria for essential workers is published on the Government website and is quite clear. These are jobs critical to the COVID-19 response or in one of the critical sectors listed.
Given the present pressures and potential spread of the virus we are asking every parent to think twice about whether you need to access one of these hub school places. We do not want to be in the position to have to turn a pupil away but I will support all head teachers in making the right decision for their school.
As we work through the next three weeks we will continue to improve and develop the remote learning offering for pupils. We do not want parents to feel they need to become teachers; please continue to be yourself but try to encourage and motivate your child to engage with their teacher and work either online or at their desk.
These next three weeks will be difficult for all of us, but by working together we will get through this and emerge stronger as a nation.
Several people have already asked me about the Easter holidays.
The academic timetable and school holidays are set out years in advance after full consultation with teachers and their representatives. The aim is to split the school terms into manageable lengths for students. If any holiday was moved in time, then students would face an exceptionally long half term as a consequence running into the summer.
The timing of school holidays is also shared with all Government departments and allows a large number of people to plan their holidays and work patterns around their families, and others to support their work colleagues.
The Department for Education, Sport and Culture will review all ways we can support working families during these difficult times.
As we emerge from this lockdown we will all need time to recover, to reflect and to heal.
There are no current plans to alter the school year but we will be planning activities for young people throughout the holiday periods as we did last year.
But now is the time to get our young people’s education back on track. To continue their learning, to recognise our shared concerns and look after our wellbeing.
Now is the time to care for each other and support all our students so that they can achieve their full potential and have the future they planned for.
Thank you chief Minister.