SF accuse Foster of making up school reopening policy 'on the hoof'

Sinn Féin has accused the First Minister of making up policy "on the hoof".

It comes after Arlene Foster has said she hopes the Stormont Executive will revisit the dates for reopening schools in Northern Ireland.

The DUP leader was speaking after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a full return to school in England on 8 March.

Last Thursday, the Executive announced that some primary school pupils here would return to class on 8 March, with some older post-primary school children returning on 22 March.

Ministers did not commit to a date for the full return of the wider school population.

In an interview on Monday, Ms Foster indicated the DUP's desire for a more rapid return to classrooms than the phased approach agreed by her party only four days earlier.

She said DUP Education Minister Peter Weir had wanted to pursue a similar strategy to what the Prime Minister announced at last week's Executive meeting,

However, she said Stormont's health advisers "didn't think that that was the right way forward".

In response, Sinn Fein's education spokesman Pat Sheehan accused the First Minister of flipping her position in response to Mr Johnson's move.

"It's disappointing that Arlene wants to go and make policy on the hoof in interviews on the TV last night," Mr Sheehan MLA told the BBC.

"Nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed is that Boris Johnson has decided to make a decision for England.

"You would think by now that the DUP would have learned not to hitch their wagon to Boris."

Only vulnerable children and those of key workers have been in at mainstream schools in Northern Ireland since January.

The Executive decided last week that primary school pupils in year groups P1 to P3 would return to face-to-face learning on 8 March.

Pre-school and nursery children are also due to return on that date.

Ministers decided that secondary pupils in key exam years, year groups 12 to 14, will return to school on March 22.

The P1-P3 pupils will revert to remote learning for a week on that date, for the week prior to the Easter holidays, to minimise the impact on infection rates of years 12-14 returning.

No decisions were taken on whether other year groups will return to class after the Easter holidays.