Education Minister hails full return of all pupils to school

Northern Ireland's Education Minister has hailed the full return of all pupils to school as a "very positive day for young people".

Post-primary students, years eight to 11, have returned to school on Monday, after all other classes resumed before the Easter break.

It comes as Northern Ireland has taken some gradual steps out of lockdown.

Speaking on a visit to Sullivan Upper School in Holywood, Peter Weir said he felt the very youngest and very oldest in society had "suffered most" during the pandemic.

"I think this is important, not simply from an educational point of view but for the mental health and wellbeing of our young people to be back in with their friends in class, and it's something I very much welcome," he said.

The DUP Minister also ruled out mandatory school over the summer holidays in Northern Ireland but said his officials are bringing forward academic and wellbeing recovery programmes.

He added that he was hopeful the proposed programmes will get the support of the Stormont Executive.

Mr Weir said they will involve some voluntary summer activities to provide some opportunity for "a level of catch-up".

"We have got to remember there is a lot of good work that has been done directly by way of remote learning, particularly everyone has been a lot more prepared for that from January so it's not as if education itself stopped during this period," he said. "There's a lot of good work that has been done by schools, teachers and by parents. I suppose it's no direct substitute for being in school but by the same token we shouldn't think there was a blank canvas over the last three months."