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A programme which allows schools to offer additional help to pupils most impacted by the pandemic is now being extended.

The Engage 2 programme will also be broadened to include funded pre-school education settings, special schools, and Education Otherwise Than At School (EOTAS) settings.

Education Minister, Peter Weir said: “I fully recognise the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the education of our children and young people.

“Schools and pupils have already reaped the benefits of the initial Engage programme which helped schools to provide child centred one-to-one and small group support to those pupils who stand to benefit the most. School leaders have personally reflected to me, and I have witnessed first hand, the success of the first Engage programme and that is why we are both extending and widening it.

I am pleased to announce that more than £16m will now be allocated for the period from September 2021 to March 2022. This further significant investment will support even more education settings to take advantage of this incredibly valuable programme that delivers where it should, in the classroom.”

This will be the second year of Engage which has been developed in liaison with representatives of the education sector taking on board any lessons learned.

Concluding, the Minister said: “Educational settings will have more autonomy next year to use a broader range of staff to deliver the programme; offer activities outside the normal school day and to bring in third parties to deliver activities.

“In addition, settings will also have the flexibility to spend Engage 2 funding on materials and equipment to support the delivery of the programme.

“I want to thank once again all our teachers, staff and indeed our pupils for the strength and resilience they have shown throughout these very difficult times.”