The Covid-19 pandemic has proved the social value of smaller, rural schools, according to a Northern Ireland farm lobby group.

Farmers For Action has written to Minister for Education Peter Weir to demand an immediate cessation and reversal of plans to close many of the region's rural schools.

FFA said the current pandemic makes the case for maintaining smaller country schools as opposed to merging them to create larger educational facilities.

Sean McAuley, FFA Steering Committee, said he hoped the extra space and safer commuting that rural schools offer could allow them to re-open sooner than larger, more urban schools.

"In short, keeping rural schools open could save many lives and makes sense now and into the future as large towns and cities obviously fair worse in a pandemic," he said.

In addition, if any of the current proposed rural school closures go ahead in Northern Ireland other than for a new build on-site, it will mean that the powers-that-be have learnt nothing about climate change, fossil fuel emissions and absolutely nothing about pandemics nor the rights of rural dwellers.

McAuley added: "Life in rural Northern Ireland is difficult enough for farming families and the rural workforce trying to feed the nation without any more talk and stress being caused by the continuation of the closure process of so many of our rural schools.

"Our sympathies go out to all those rural and others families where Covid-19 has came like a thief in the night and taken their loved ones or left them seriously ill in hospital.

"[It is] truly time for politicians and top civil servants in the Department for Education to deliver on common sense a path that their associates in the NHS have already been forced down."