All schools in Northern Ireland are to close from Monday, March 23.

The Northern Ireland Executive announced yesterday (March 18) that all schools across Northern Ireland will close next week due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a joint statement with deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, First Minister Arlene Foster said: "Our school principals, parents and pupils have been in a holding pattern based on medical advice for the last week. Today we have agreed that all schools will close from Monday, March 23. The societal and economic impact of this measure will be enormous as parents have to adjust their routine to deal with this unplanned long-term closure. Our medical advice was to delay this step for as long as possible as the closure will likely take us beyond the natural break for summer. This is unprecedented."

Mrs. Foster continued: "We are exploring how our schools can continue to be a base for the education of children whose parents are health service staff or other key workers such as the blue light services."

"Educating our children also cannot cease. Remote learning and home packs for self-study are all being explored over the period ahead. I thank and express my deep appreciation to all our teachers, support staff and those helping to staff our schools for all they have done and I look forward to day when we will see our schools fully functioning again," she added.

Noting that A-level and GCSE exam preparation has already been disrupted, Mrs. Foster continued: "We are speaking to the exam bodies to get clear guidance for schools and parents. As soon as we have a clear answer we will make it public."

There is also an impact on free school meals and this is an issue that the Minister for Communities alongside Executive colleagues will address.