Surge in Covid cases may see schools breaking up early for Christmas
Schools are facing the prospect of closing early for Christmas amid a surge in Covid cases.
Thousands of children around the country are being switched to remote learning as increasing numbers of staff and pupils test positive for the virus.
Oxford Academy is currently in the middle of what it calls a ‘circuit breaker’ for years seven, eight and nine with pupils being taught at home.
The school said it had done everything it could to find staff cover, but had reached the point where absence levels were too high.
Oxford Academy is currently in the middle of what it calls a ‘circuit breaker’ for years seven, eight and nine with pupils being taught at home
Meanwhile, St Mary’s Church of England Primary, Hereford, and Darwen Aldridge Enterprise Studio in Lancashire are also shut for at least five days.
In Buckinghamshire, Great Kimble Church of England School closed for two days last week due to staff absences. A further seven schools in the county were partially closed for some of last week.
At Outwood Academy Acklam, in Middlesbrough, year nine students have been taught remotely for three days because of Covid-related staff shortages, while at Ifield Community College, in Crawley, West Sussex, each year group spent one day learning from home.
Guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) says schools should only send large groups of children home in ‘extreme cases’ and as a ‘last resort’.
Now parents fear that rising cases could mean schools close early for Christmas.
As head teachers took precautionary action, Schools Minister Robin Walker was urging them not to shift nativity plays online, a move already taken by a number of schools and recommended by some councils
One head teacher in the London borough of Kingston said in a letter to families on Friday: ‘We had to close the school a week early before Christmas last year due to the sheer number of positive cases. I truly hope not to be in that position again this year.’
It comes after the DfE last week told secondary school head teachers that all pupils should be tested on site when they return after the Christmas break.
Meanwhile, public health chiefs at Surrey County Council have issued a circular in which they ‘strongly recommend that face coverings should be worn in communal areas (excluding classrooms)’ in all schools.
Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘There is clearly a possibility that these ongoing problems will affect some schools in the run-up to Christmas and that a number may have to move to remote education at the end of term.
‘If this does happen, we would not want to see a repeat of last year when the Government issued threats to schools which were considering a move to online.’
As head teachers took precautionary action, Schools Minister Robin Walker was urging them not to shift nativity plays online, a move already taken by a number of schools and recommended by some councils.
Some campaigners have also asked for schools to do all they can to remain fully open to avoid disrupting children’s education and give them the opportunity to enjoy festive activities.
Molly Kingsley, founder of parent group UsForThem, said: ‘Kids have missed out on so much face-to-face time this year. To close schools at a time when adults are about to be enjoying Christmas parties and mixing seems especially unfair.’