School closures latest – Kids told to return from tomorrow despite SAGE Covid warning and union bid to shut ALL schools

CHILDREN are set to return to school on Monday following the Christmas break.

But a rise in coronavirus cases and fears over further spreading Covid has led to some staying shut for the time being.

A large number of primary schools in the southeast of England and London will remain closed in a bid to combat the latest outbreak.

Yet, Boris Johnson told Andrew Marr that for those still expected to go in, parents should send their children to school on Monday.

It comes as SAGE scientists have warned that children between the ages of 12 and 16 are seven times more likely to spread coronavirus, compared to their other household members.

And teachers union NAHT could take legal action against the Department of for Education over not shutting all schools.

  • Chiara Fiorillo


    Boris Johnson said people will have to be "realistic" about the impact of the new coronavirus variant, amid calls by a large group of headteachers for GCSE and A-level exams to be scrapped this summer.

    It comes amid chaos over plans for reopening schools this month due to the Covid-19 crisis, and concerns about the fairness of any exams which could be held.

    Asked whether exams should be cancelled, the Prime Minister told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One: "We've got to be realistic, we've got to be realistic about the pace at which this new variant has spread, we've got to be realistic about the impact that it's having on our NHS, and we've got to be humble in the face of this virus."

    Most primary schools in England are scheduled to open on Monday, followed by a staggered start for secondary schools a week later, with GCSE and A-level pupils set to return first.

    Education Secretary Gavin Williamson insists the summer national exams must still go ahead.

    But more than 2,000 headteachers, from the campaign group WorthLess? say pupils, parents and teachers should not be put at risk of contracting Covid for the sake of protecting exam timetables.

    The Government wants summer national exams to go aheadCredit: Getty Images – Getty
  • Chiara Fiorillo


    The leader of Kent County Council has urged Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to keep all primary schools closed in the county.

    Primary school pupils in Thanet, Canterbury, Dover and Folkestone and Hythe are expected to return on Monday while the other districts in Kent will learn remotely for the first two weeks of term with arrangements being reviewed on January 18.

    Council leader Roger Gough and cabinet member for education and skills Richard Long wrote to Mr Williamson, saying: "We recognise and share the strong arguments about the damaging impact of learning loss and social isolation on children from not being in school, as well as the impact on families.

    "It is therefore with considerable regret that we urge that the deferral of primary school opening that Government has already decided for much of the county be applied to the remaining four districts – Thanet, Canterbury, Dover and Folkestone and Hythe – where primary schools are currently scheduled to reopen on Monday."

  • Chiara Fiorillo


    Tony Blair said that unless there is a "step change" in the vaccination programme, it is difficult to see how schools can be kept open.

    He told Times Radio: "On the one hand, it's a disaster for school children, particularly poorest school children if they're not getting educated.

    "But it's also completely understandable that teachers and parents say, not because they think their children… the risk to children is very, very small, it's the risk to transmission rates and it's the risk to teachers and parents, and therefore to those that their parents mix with.

    "So for all of those reasons, it just emphasises yet again why it's so important to get vaccination under way.

    "Otherwise you're going to be day-by-day and week-by-week facing a very, very difficult choice as to whether you do more school closures and therefore deprive more children of educational opportunity or whether you leave the schools open but run the risk that the disease keeps spreading."

    Mr Blair added: "Unless there's a step-change of a radical nature in the vaccination programme, it's very difficult to see how you're going to keep schools open."

    Tony Blair called for a 'step change' in the vaccination programmeCredit: Sky News
  • Chiara Fiorillo


    A primary school in Glossop, Derbyshire, has advised parents it will not reopen on Monday except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers, and could be closed for two weeks.

    Esther Bland, the head teacher of Duke of Norfolk Church of England Primary School, said in a statement on the school website that the National Education Union (NEU) has advised its members to not return to school on Monday.

    The statement added: "As this is the main union in our school, it is with regret that we are writing to inform you that school will be closed on Monday 4th January 2021 to all children, except for those who are vulnerable or are children of key workers.

    "The situation is constantly changing. We will assess our staffing levels on Monday.

    "It is a possibility that the school will only be open to vulnerable children or those of key workers for at least two weeks, but we will share this information on Monday as soon as we have it."

  • Chiara Fiorillo


    Moulsecoomb Primary School in Brighton, East Sussex, has announced it will be closed due to increased Covid-19 cases in the area.

    Writing on the school's Facebook page, head teacher Adam Sutton said: "I'm sorry that the New Year has started in this way, we look forward to seeing all children back with us soon."

  • Chiara Fiorillo


    Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, called for teachers to be vaccinated "as a priority", as she said that any school closure should be for "the absolute minimum of time and that time must be used very well".

    She told BBC News Channel: "Schools need to be a priority for children, not only for their education but also for their wellbeing.

    "Schools should be the last to close and the first to open, so it is a serious moment for children.

    "If there have to be closures, we have already seen closures in secondary schools for two weeks, but if there have to be any closures at all it must be for the absolute minimum of time and that time must be used very well.

    "I would like teachers to be offered vaccination as a priority. That is something we haven't heard yet from Government, but it is something that I think is very, very necessary."

  • Chiara Fiorillo


    The return plan for schools in Wales will be kept "under consideration" following concerns about the new strain of coronavirus, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

    Two teaching unions have called for face-to-face teaching, set to resume for most schools between January 11 and 18, to be delayed until the impact of the Covid-19 variant is assessed.

    On Sunday, Mr Drakeford said a "phased and flexible return" had been agreed with local authorities which would allow schools to choose their reopening date based on the Covid situation in their area.

    But he said the Welsh Government would "keep this under consideration", while its technical advisory group would look at all available evidence early next week.

    Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government agreed a 'phased and flexible return'Credit: Getty Images – Getty
  • Chiara Fiorillo


    Asked whether he could guarantee schools will open on January 18, Boris Johnson told the Andrew Marr show: "Well, obviously, we're going to continue to assess the impact of the Tier 4 measures, the Tier 3 measures."

    On whether GCSE and A-Level exams should be cancelled, the Prime Minister said: "We've got to be realistic, we've got to be realistic about the pace of which this new variant has spread… we've got to be realistic about the impact that it's having on our NHS… and we've got to be humble in the face of this virus."

    Mr Johnson indicated tougher restrictions may be introduced, saying: "It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that will be tougher in many parts of the country.

    "I'm fully, fully reconciled to that."

    He added: "There are obviously a range of tougher measures that that we would have to consider… I'm not going to speculate now about what they would be, but I'm sure that all our viewers and our listeners will understand what the sort of things… clearly school closures, which we had to do in March is one of those things."

  • Chiara Fiorillo


    Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he has "no doubt" that schools are safe and parents should send primary-age children back to classrooms this week where schools remain open.

    Mr Johnson said he understood people's concerns about children returning for the new term but said education is "a priority".

    Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One, the Prime Minister said: "Schools are safe. It is very, very important to stress that.

    "The risk to kids, to young people is really very, very small indeed.

    "The risk to staff is very small.

    "I would advise all parents thinking about want to do, look at where your area is, overwhelmingly you'll be in a part of the country where primary schools tomorrow will be open."

  • Chiara Fiorillo


    Boris Johnson said he hopes lateral flow tests will help with the return of schools.

    He said: "We're going to work with local authorities, work with schools and those responsible up and down the country.

    "Our advice remains the same, which is that for public health reasons we think in the large majority of the country, large parts of the country, it is sensible to continue to keep schools open, primary schools, as you know secondary schools coming back a bit later.

    "And the second thing is that we are going to be ramping up testing across the whole of the system and I don't think people have focused enough on this, if I may just for a second.

    "One of the things we didn't have when we went into the first lockdown, where we sadly did have to close schools, was we didn't have this huge number of lateral flow tests.

    "We now have hundreds of millions of lateral flow tests which I believe and hope can be used, deployed, particularly in secondary schools to assist the return of schools."

    Boris Johnson hopes lateral flow tests will help with the return of schoolsCredit: JEFF OVERS
  • Chiara Fiorillo


    Boris Johnson said that he understands the anxiety around the reopening of schools.

    Asked if he would take legal action against councils which have decided not to reopen primary schools, the Prime Minister said: "We'll work very hard with authorities across the country to get our message across that we think schools are safe; that schools are safe, there's absolutely no doubt about it.

    "I understand people's frustrations, I understand people's anxieties but there is no doubt in my mind that schools are safe and that education is a priority.

    "And if you think about the history of the pandemic, we've kept schools going for a long, long time in areas where the pandemic has really been at really high levels."

    Mr Johnson added: "We will keep this under constant review but we will be driven by public health considerations and by the massive importance of education."

  • Jon Rogers


    Millions of children and worried parents could be facing a "chaotic situation" at school on Monday, Andy Burnham has warned.

    The Greater Manchester mayor said the Government's "top-down" and "blanket" approach to schools reopening should be changed to allow local head teachers and councils to take the decision themselves.

    He also suggested the Government should instead consider delaying the reopening of primary schools and adopt a staggered approach, as in secondary schools.

    Mr Burnham, speaking on the BBC's Breakfast programme, said: "The position can't stay as it is today, we have to have a change today.

    "It will be quite a chaotic situation tomorrow, I think, given all of the anxieties that people have.

  • Jon Rogers


    The former chief scientific adviser Sir Mark Walport told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "It's clear that this new variant is transmitting more readily, it's transmitting more readily in younger age groups as well.

    "It's important to note that it doesn't appear to cause worse disease or that it's going to be more resistant to the effects of the vaccine, but it is going to be very, very difficult to keep it under control without much tighter social distancing measures."

    Asked if this included closing schools, Sir Mark said: "We know that transmission occurs within schools.

    "We know that a person between 12 and 16 is seven times more likely than others in a household to bring the infection into a household.

    "And we know that there was a small dip in the amount of transmission in school children after the half term, which then went up again when they went back."

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