The Fermanagh Primary Principals Group has informed parents that they will not be opening schools to provide safe childcare for parents of key workers until “a point in the future when we have adequate time to risk assess in our schools to ensure we can comply with PHA guidance on PPE and social distancing”.

The statement also said that the Group believes the safest place for their children is “at home” at this moment in time.

However, The Impartial Reporter has also learned that some primary schools will open for children of key workers with Jones Memorial saying that it will continue to provide care for children of key workers from Monday, March 23, cautioning that numbers were “limited due to social distancing”.

This all follows a statement from Education Minister Peter Weir MLA calling on schools to open and provide childcare for parents of an extensive list of workers deemed as key in the current coronavirus pandemic. 

The statement described key workers as “those who are maintaining essential public services” during the current coronavirus pandemic. The document said “the aim is to keep numbers at a minimum” but also urged a need “for some flexibility to ensure our key workers are supported”.

The list was broad though and sparked comment that with such a large grouping the point of closing the schools to help increase social distancing, a key component in the fight against the pandemic, was being missed. That schools would be nearly as full as if they were still open.

The statement told staff in the education sector that “unless there are reasons to the contrary, staff should be available in education settings from Monday”.

However, it is clear in letters sent to primary schools in the area yesterday and posted on school websites that this will not be happening uniformly across Fermanagh.

The Fermanagh Primary Principals Group also said: “The Fermanagh Primary Principals Group are keen to show our unreserved support for the ongoing challenge our healthcare services are currently facing. We realise we can and will provide support for our communities.

“We will use this time to work with our colleagues in the Department of Education, the Education Authority, Catholic Council for Maintained Schools, Council for Integrated Education in Northern Ireland and Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta to meet the challenges being faced.”