Our young people have been deeply affected by the pandemic throughout the toughest of years, deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said.
The deputy First Minister was speaking after she visited St Pius X College in Magherafelt today.
Michelle O’Neill spoke with students in years 12-14 at the end of their first week back in school to hear about their experiences of the last year.
The deputy First Minister said: “The pandemic has undoubtedly hit our children and young people hard. We hear so often that, thankfully, the majority of young people are not seriously affected by the virus. But, sadly the educational, emotional and physical impacts of the pandemic on their lives have been deep and severe.
“One year ago this week the Executive took the hugely difficult, but necessary, decision to close our schools as part of efforts to stop the spread of the virus and save lives. That marked the beginning of the toughest of years for our young people, who have had their lives turned upside down.”
Michelle O’Neill continued: “A year is a long time for any of us, but particularly so when you’re young. A time when you rely on the support of friends, experience rites of passage usually taken for granted and prepare for the next steps of education, training or work.
“I know it has been particularly difficult for those in exam years who have been worried about how the disruption will impact on their futures. I welcomed the opportunity to discuss this with students at St Pius X College in Magherafelt today, at the end of their first week back in the classroom.
“They are a really inspirational group of young people who spoke candidly to me about the many challenges they have faced over the last year - remote learning, looking after their wellbeing, staying apart from their friends, and missing the things they enjoy.
“It was wonderful to see the students back in class and looking to the future with hope. We very much look forward to the planned return of all remaining students to the school.”
The deputy First Minister also praised the teaching and non-teaching staff at St Pius X, for their work to support students. She said: “School communities have put in an enormous amount of work over the last year, not only to meet the challenge of remote learning but to make the school environment as safe as possible for both students and staff.
“I have been really impressed by the commitment shown by the St Pius X team, the educational and academic progress of their students and the pastoral care they have demonstrated to promote the wellbeing everyone at the school.”
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