Education Minister Peter Weir outlines plans to support vulnerable children in July and August.

Education Minister Peter Weir has outlined plans to help support vulnerable children and young people in July and August.

12m sought for free school meals for children who need them.
12m sought for free school meals for children who need them.

The proposals include: special schools summer provision; youth services with priority given to key worker children; and plans for a summer food scheme.

Minister Weir said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed education for all our pupils. I am conscious of the need to address the lost learning experienced by them and the impact on their mental health."

He pointed out that the current arrangements for educational supervision in schools for vulnerable children and children of key workers will end on June 30 - which is less than a fortnight away.

"As we plan for the reopening of schools, the summer months provide an important opportunity to help support this group of children and young people.

“The package of measures which I intend to introduce are aimed at supporting them to ensure they are not unnecessarily disadvantaged when they return to school," said the Minister.

He said he wants £12m for a free school meals replacement scheme for children who need them over the summer.

“I am also bidding for an additional £12million from the Executive’s COVID-19 fund to provide a summer food scheme for those children who normally receive free school meals during term time.

“In addition, I plan to extend the Education Authority’s ‘Eat Well Live Well’ programme which is currently providing healthy breakfasts and lunches to over 3,000 vulnerable young people.”

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The Minister said he was also considering bringing forward projects to support learning for children over the summer and beyond, subject to funding.

“I want to give as many pupils as possible the opportunity to access learning over the summer months. To that end, I am setting out a range of proposals which will include virtual classrooms and short summer schools for P5, P6 and P7 children, where schools wish to run them.

“My department and I will continue to engage with school leaders, teachers and the youth service on how we might best support these measures, the uptake of which will be purely on a voluntary basis.

“I will also bring forward a project called ‘Engage’ to provide literacy and numeracy support; mental health interventions and the widening of nurture support for the 2020/21 academic year for primary and post-primary schools in socially deprived areas.

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“Our children and young people need our support more than ever and I hope these steps will help them as we continue to find our way through these very difficult times," he said.