It was only six days ago that as Minister of Education, Sport and Culture I stood before you to announce sweeping moves to counter the threat the coronavirus presents to our people.
We have closed schools, sports facilities, cinemas and theatres.
The Government has closed pubs, restaurants, shops and our borders.
Our way of life has been put on hold for 21 days whilst we support our NHS to help us.
I am eternally grateful to all those staff who have stepped up to the challenge we face as a nation.
To the cleaners, catering staff, caretakers, support staff and teachers of our schools and University.
They have supported each other, their pupils and families during a period of uncertainty and concern.
The doors of nine primary schools and all five secondary schools have been left open for vulnerable children and those of key workers.
Teachers have joined with other front line staff to ensure our doctors, nurses, police officers and firefighter can still do their job.
Every child who can be safely at home should be.
Parents have responded to this call.
This week only 4% of primary school pupils and less than 1% of secondary school pupils have needed to go to school.
Teachers are working from home to support those pupils at home.
We have been working with all exam boards to ensure this present disruption does not damage our young people’s educational future.
Teachers have been reducing the risk to themselves and their pupils but making social distancing a game for young children.
It is this imagination and creativity which shows the profession at its best.
One of our head teachers wrote to me this morning saying;
Whilst none of us would have chosen to be in this situation, it has provided us with an opportunity to rethink why and how we do a number to things in schools already which will be beneficial even when all of this is over.
Indeed, although the coronavirus is probably the most frightening and challenging thing the island has ever faced, my overwhelming sense at the end of this week is one of optimism and hope – our sense of togetherness, the generosity of spirit that has been shared and the camaraderie we have in schools and in our community are palpable!
To support our key workers and emergency services teachers have volunteered to keep those schools open during the Easter period.
It is by working together that we will overcome the threat this virus presents.