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Education Minister launches £11.2million Engage programme

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Details of a major programme aimed at addressing the impact of Covid-19 on children’s learning have been outlined by Education Minister, Peter Weir today.

The funding, agreed by the Executive in June 2020, will enable all primary and post primary schools to provide additional teaching support for pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The significant investment being made through the Engage programme will seek to address the impact of Covid-19 in terms of lost learning and will support those pupils most in need.

Welcoming the new programme during a visit to Dungannon Primary School, the Minister said: “There is no doubt that this year has been particularly difficult for teachers, pupils and parents all across Northern Ireland. Along with my Executive colleagues, I am very conscious of the anxiety caused by prolonged school closures during the lockdown period and the potential long lasting impact in terms of pupil achievement.

“The Engage programme will provide vital assistance to schools as they seek to address the needs of our children and young people during this unique year. This funding will be used to secure additional qualified teachers, enabling schools to provide child centred one-to-one, small group or team teaching support to those pupils who stand to benefit the most.

“I am determined that, during what has been a most challenging time, every pupil in Northern Ireland should receive the support they need to help them engage with learning, to enhance wellbeing to ensure that they can all reach their full potential.”

The Engage programme forms part of efforts to address the impact of Covid-19. Further measures have included the purchase of online Virtual Learning resources for current Year 7 children to help with literacy and numeracy skills. In addition, a number of primary schools received funding to provide Summer Schools.

The Minister concluded: “I want to thank once again all our teachers and school staff within education settings for their support and determination to enable the return of our pupils to the classroom. Without their commitment, programmes such as Engage would not be possible.

“I am hopeful of securing the additional £4.8million funding which will be needed to continue the programme until the end of the current academic year (from April 2021 to June 2021) and will be making that case to my Executive colleagues in due course.”

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