UK/December 25, 2021/By: Alex Finnis/Source: https://inews.co.uk/
The Government has not mandated schools to close, but attendance is below 90 per cent, and many have been hit by staff shortages with teachers forced to self-isolate
Some schools have made the decision to close early for Christmas, as Omicron case numbers continue to soar in the UK.
The Government has not mandated schools to close, but attendance is below 90 per cent, and many have been hit by staff shortages with teachers forced to self-isolate.
Ministers have refused to rule out introducing tougher restrictions, and while the intention is to keep schools open, nothing has been guaranteed.
Could schools close in January?
At present, schools are set to reopen in January as planned, in all parts of the UK.
Education minister Alex Burghart said measures will be put in place in England to ensure “we have the best chance for the start of a normal school term”.
This includes testing when pupils return, improved ventilation and enhanced hygiene methods.
However, the Government could choose to shut schools if the data suggests it is necessary.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman has indicated that schools would be kept open unless there is an “absolute public health emergency”.
Asked whether schools might close early for Christmas, they said: “Certainly we do not think anyone should be closing schools early unless they have received advice from the local director of public health that it’s necessary on public health grounds.
“We wouldn’t want to see that happening routinely, just as a precaution, because as I’ve said, education is vital.
“And we’ve seen, sadly, because of the public health crisis, children have to miss face-to-face education. And so it’s very important that we maintain schooling as much as possible.”
Robert Halfon, Conservative chairman of the Education Select Committee, has said England is “moving, sadly, towards de facto school closures”.
In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said schools should remain open “if at all possible”.
And in Wales, education minister Jeremy Miles has said schools could take planning days at the start of term to measure staffing capacity.
Why are some schools closing early?
A headteachers’ union has warned how schools are seeing “very severe low attendance” among pupils and teachers ahead of the Christmas break.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said one school has had around 25 per cent of its staff off for three weeks due to the pandemic.
Some schools and colleges have already switched to remote lessons, while some parents are choosing to keep their children off school.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said “it is already chaos in some schools” due to Covid, adding : “The few schools that have had to close have done so on the advice of public health teams.
“Some parents are choosing to keep their children off from school as they are so concerned. Many schools are struggling with the levels of Covid amongst both staff and pupils, which have shot up in the last week.”
Docente - Investigadora Educativa.
Doctora en Cs. de la Educación, Magíster en Desarrollo Curricular y Licenciada en Relaciones Industriales.