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Statement by Minister for Education, Sport and Culture on COVID-19

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The key priority for our Department is the health and wellbeing of all our pupils, teachers and staff.

There has been understandable concern and anxiety about the invisible threat this virus presents.

This week I have been meeting with head teachers and teacher union representatives to brief them of the facts listen to their views and experiences and work together to plan for all possibilities.

We are not closing all the schools on our Island.

Those parent worried about their children who wish to withdraw them from school can do so without any sanctions.

Those teachers who may be more at risk from the virus due to pregnancy, age or underlying serious medical conditions will be advised to speak to their line manager, avoid direct contact with classes and if necessary work from home.

Plans are already underway to provide far more education for pupils online and ensure they have access to these resources.

Plans are also being drawn up to deal with any immediate staff shortages.

In the event that we need to close schools it is my intention to keep the doors open for the children of key workers who keep our health service, emergency service and education system running.

We will also prioritise those vulnerable children who rely on our schools for meals and support.

We will encourage all students due to sit exams to continue studying, consolidate their knowledge, and have already discussed how they will be assessed by the relevant exam boards.

This is a challenging time for all our staff and students who share our anxieties about the pandemic.

Our teachers have shown their commitment and dedication to this island, and by working together we can adapt and overcome the challenges today and in the weeks to come.