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 from the new Covid strain.

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.

Follow all the latest news and updates around school closures below…

  • Joseph Gamp

    MANCHESTER CITY COUNCIL TO WORK WITH SCHOOLS TO MAKE INDIVIDUAL DECISIONS

    Manchester City Council said they would work with schools to make individual decisions while keeping a close eye on virus rates Councillor Garry Bridges, executive member for children and schools, said: “Our starting point is that the best place for children is to be in school.

    “Schools are one of the most effective track-and-trace organisations in the country and our public health teams have indicated that they are not seeing evidence of transmission within schools, but largely in the community. There are also risks to children through not being in school.

    “The Government have handled this situation appallingly with confusing and contradictory advice followed by repeated last-minute U-turns and it is no surprise that the Secretary of State has lost the confidence of schools.

    “Manchester’s infection rates were much higher throughout the autumn term than they are currently, and our schools battled incredibly hard to stay open safely throughout that period, often with little support and confusing guidance.

    “It does seem that the conversation is now being set by a London-centred focus. In conversation with Public Health we are not giving blanket advice to schools to remain closed currently but will work with individual schools to make the right decision for their circumstances and support them in any way we can.”

  • Joseph Gamp

    LIZ TRUSS CONFIDENT SECONDARY SCHOOLS WILL REOPEN IN JANUARY

    International Trade Secretary Liz Truss remains confident secondary schools will open in January.

    Pressed on whether the majority of secondary schools would open by January 11 and 18, depending on the area they are in, Ms Truss told Times Radio: “Absolutely. That’s what we are seeking to do.

    “I’m a parent of secondary school children myself, so I know the challenges of making sure your children are keeping in touch with online learning, and we want to get those schools open.”

  • Joseph Gamp

    WALES: MARK DRAKEFORD SAYS SCHOOL-RETURN PLAN WILL BE KEPT ‘UNDER CONSIDERATION’

    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.

    Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio Wales: “Of course we will continue to make decisions in the light of the best knowledge, research and information that’s available to us at the time.

    “But as a government, we will not lose sight of the fact that we have a generation of young people here in Wales whose lives have been so badly disrupted in 2020, whose education needs to be put back on track.”

     

  • Jon Rogers

    SOME SCHOOLS TO REMAIN CLOSED IN SLOUGH

    Slough Borough Council has shared a statement confirming some schools in the area have decided they are unable to open due to "individual circumstances".

    The statement confirmed that "Government advice and direction is primary schools in Slough will be reopening this week as expected".

    But it went on to say: "We are aware some schools have already made the decision, that due to their individual circumstances they are unable to open and they will be contacting parents directly."

    Councillor Martin Carter, lead member for children and schools, urged concerned parents to speak to their child's school if they were considering keeping them at home.

    "Parents of children who may be vulnerable will need to make individual decisions based on their own children and their own family circumstances," he said.

    "We understand this will be difficult, however we do ask any parent with concerns to speak to their child's school to discuss safety measures in place before keeping their child at home when the school is open to them."

  • Jon Rogers

    CUMBRIA CALLS FOR SCHOOLS TO REMAIN CLOSED

    Cumbria has asked the Department for Education (DfE) to allow it to keep primary schools closed on Monday.

    The rural county is one of the areas outside London and the South East hardest hit by the virulent new strain of Covid-19.

    Colin Cox, the director of public health at Cumbria County Council, in a series of tweets, said: "Following extensive discussions over the last 48 hours, the CCC Exec Director (People) and I have this morning jointly written to DfE formally requesting that Cumbrian primary schools are added to the Contingency Framework of schools not expected to open tomorrow.

    "Driven by the new strain, rates in Carlisle and Eden are now very high, and are rising fast in other parts of the county – rates in Barrow, Copeland and Allerdale are doubling every 4-5 days. And hospitals are under pressure.

    "We don't have the capacity in the NHS to respond easily to further increases in rates.

    "So while primary children may not themselves be at high risk, we have to reduce opportunities for transmission wherever possible to protect the wider community.

  • Jon Rogers

    PEOPLE HAVE TO BE 'REALISTIC' OVER CALLS TO SCRAP EXAMS, SAYS JOHNSON

    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.

  • Jon Rogers

    MANCHESTER COUNCIL TO WORK WITH SCHOOLS

    Manchester City Council said they would work with schools to make individual decisions while keeping a close eye on virus rates.

    Councillor Garry Bridges, executive member for children and schools, said: "Our starting point is that the best place for children is to be in school.

    "Schools are one of the most effective track-and-trace organisations in the country and our public health teams have indicated that they are not seeing evidence of transmission within schools, but largely in the community.

    "There are also risks to children through not being in school.

    "The Government have handled this situation appallingly with confusing and contradictory advice followed by repeated last-minute U-turns and it is no surprise that the Secretary of State has lost the confidence of schools.

    "Manchester's infection rates were much higher throughout the autumn term than they are currently, and our schools battled incredibly hard to stay open safely throughout that period, often with little support and confusing guidance.

    "It does seem that the conversation is now being set by a London-centred focus. In conversation with Public Health we are not giving blanket advice to schools to remain closed currently but will work with individual schools to make the right decision for their circumstances and support them in any way we can."

  • Jon Rogers

    LIVERPOOL SAYS ITS SCHOOLS WILL OPEN AS PLANNED

    In Liverpool, parents are being advised that schools in the city scheduled to reopen this coming week will do so, unless they are notified.

    In a joint statement, cabinet member for education, Cllr Barbara Murray, and director of children and young people services Steve Reddy said: "We recognise there is a balance between controlling the virus and the damage to child wellbeing, mental health and the impact of even more lost learning.

    "With less than 24 hours to go, we are not asking schools and parents to change their plans.

    "As a Tier 3 area which has a lower infection rate than others, the schools that are scheduled to reopen this week should do so, including primary and special schools as well as secondary schools for vulnerable and key worker children.

    "No parent will be fined if they keep their child away tomorrow for safety reasons."

  • Jon Rogers

    DRAKEFORD SAYS SCHOOL-RETURN PLAN WILL BE KEPT 'UNDER CONSIDERATION'

    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.

    Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio Wales: "Of course we will continue to make decisions in the light of the best knowledge, research and information that's available to us at the time.

    "But as a government, we will not lose sight of the fact that we have a generation of young people here in Wales whose lives have been so badly disrupted in 2020, whose education needs to be put back on track."

  • Jon Rogers

    STARMER CRITICISES GOVT'S 'CHAOTIC U-TURN ON SCHOOLS'

    Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the vaccine was "our great hope", adding: "I want the Government to throw everything it can at this, harnessing the extraordinary talents of our NHS so we can be vaccinating at least two million Brits a week by the end of the month."

    But, writing in the Sunday Mirror, he criticised "a chaotic last-minute U-turn on schools", adding: "Confusion reigns among parents, teachers and pupils over who will be back in school tomorrow and who won't."

  • Jon Rogers

    LANCASHIRE COUNCILLOR SAYS SCHOOL IS BEST PLACE FOR KIDS

    Lancashire County Council councillor Phillippa Williamson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools said: "Clearly the best place for children is in school, not just for their education but for their social, mental and physical wellbeing.

    "Having looked at the infection rates in Lancashire and following advice from our public health experts, we are not advocating a blanket closure of primary schools across Lancashire at this time.

    "The ultimate decision on whether to open remains with each individual school. Each of those schools knows their own circumstances best, and we will support them to help make the right decision for their pupils and staff."

    Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire's director of public health and wellbeing, said: "Although infection rates are on the rise in Lancashire, we are not in the same situation as London and the south-east of England where the new variant has really taken hold.

    "That means that we can and should encourage schools to stay open where they can. Clearly this is a fast-moving situation and must be kept under constant review, both locally and by Government."

  • Jon Rogers

    TRUSS REAFFIRMS AIM TO OPEN SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN JANUARY

    International Trade Secretary Liz Truss remains confident secondary schools will open in January.

    Pressed on whether the majority of secondary schools would open by January 11 and 18, depending on the area they are in, Ms Truss told Times Radio: "Absolutely. That's what we are seeking to do.

    "I'm a parent of secondary school children myself, so I know the challenges of making sure your children are keeping in touch with online learning, and we want to get those schools open."

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    SAGE MEMBER SAYS 'TRANSMISSION OCCURS IN SCHOOLS'

    Professor Sir Mark Walport, who is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), warned that it would be difficult to keep the new variant under control without "much tighter" social distancing measures.

    Asked if this included closing schools, the former chief scientific adviser told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "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."

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    KEIR STARMER BRANDS GOVERNMENT'S U-TURN ON SCHOOLS 'CHAOTIC'

    Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the vaccine was "our great hope", adding: "I want the Government to throw everything it can at this, harnessing the extraordinary talents of our NHS so we can be vaccinating at least two million Brits a week by the end of the month."

    But, writing in the Sunday Mirror, he criticised "a chaotic last-minute U-turn on schools", adding: "Confusion reigns among parents, teachers and pupils over who will be back in school tomorrow and who won't."

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    WHERE SCHOOLS WILL REMAIN CLOSED

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    MANY CHILDREN HAD TO USE PARENTS' MOBILE PHONES FOR ONLINE LESSONS

    Matt Hood, principal of the online Oak National Academy, which was commissioned by the Government to produce online lessons for teachers' use, said about a million children had been forced to use parents' mobile phones to study as they did not own a phone or laptop.

    Some parents, however, could not afford the extra data charges incurred and had to stop their children from studying, again highlighting disparities between pupils across the country.

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    PUPILS OUT OF SCHOOL BECAUSE OF COVID

    Official data cited by the Times shows 62 per cent of pupils were not in school in Medway, Kent, in the last week of November, because they were either self-isolating or ill.

    But in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, the figure was only 8 per cent.

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    PEOPLE HAVE TO BE 'REALISTIC' OVER CALLS TO SCRAP EXAMS, SAYS JOHNSON

    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

    KENT COUNCIL URGES GOVERNMENT TO KEEP SCHOOLS CLOSED

    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

    ‘DIFFICULT TO SEE HOW SCHOOLS CAN STAY OPEN’ – BLAIR

    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

    DERBY PRIMARY SCHOOL WILL NOT REOPEN ON MONDAY

    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

    BRIGHTON SCHOOL SAYS IT WILL CLOSE

    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

    TEACHERS SHOULD BE A ‘PRIORITY’ FOR VACCINATION

    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

    MARK DRAKEFORD SAYS SCHOOL-RETURN PLAN WILL BE KEPT 'UNDER CONSIDERATION'

    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

    GOVT ASSESSING COVID IMPACT ON SCHOOLS

    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."

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