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Statement by Minister for Education, Sport and Culture on COVID-19 – 22 March 2020

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Our culture binds us together, but we have to embrace radical changes for the health of our nation. 

On Friday the Villa Marina, cinema and Gaiety Theatre closed for the foreseeable future. 

Shows have been postponed and the Guild has been cancelled. 

All Manx National Heritage sites have closed. 

Shennaghys Jiu and other important Manx festivals will not go ahead. 

And yet performers are already proposing safe outdoor events to keep our culture alive. 

Many sporting activities have ceased and planned competitions and events have been cancelled. 

On the advice of Public Health the NSC and all regional pools will close from tonight.

Due to this I have to announce that the Manx Youth Games which was due to be held on Saturday 16 May will not go ahead. 

The Isle of Man Sport Awards which was due to be held on 2 April has been cancelled. 

We are all anxious and fearful of what damage this virus might bring. 

But our young people are suffering the fear for their friends and families, their education and their future.

We have been working with all the relevant exam boards to ensure a level playing field for our students and their UK counterparts. 

There will be no GCSEs or A-level exams this year. 

Students should continue their studies and complete their course work. 

We will work with teachers to ensure that all our students get the grades they deserve and can achieve the next step in their education. 

We will work to support the students at University College Isle of Man whose apprentiships are threatened and support those students from Universities across who may not be able to return after Easter. 

But the health and wellbeing of our pupils, teachers and staff has to be our first priority. 

This week I met with all head teachers and together we produced guidelines for how we would collectively deal with the threat to our Island. 

As the current situation has unfolded clearly more people are choosing to have their children stay at home and more staff will also be self-isolating. 

Tomorrow all the schools on the Island will close from the end of the school working day.

Dhoon and Ballasalla schools will not open tomorrow due to acute staff pressure. 

Whilst the schools will be closed the doors will remain open at our secondary schools and nine selected primary schools. 

These will be available to the children of all key workers and vulnerable children. 

Teachers have been working to move far more teaching resources on-line. 

Those children who currently receive free school meals will be catered for. 

We are also working with nursery providers to ensure provision for key workers is available. 

At a time of concern and anxiety it is vital that we manage change and plan for the next weeks and months to bring everyone with us and leave no one behind.