School leaders and councils demand clarity on primary closures

School leaders and native authorities have demanded the federal government clarify its choices over which primary colleges ought to keep open in England.

Haringey council in north London mentioned on Thursday evening that it was advising its primaries to shut to all however susceptible kids and these of key staff despite it not being in the government’s “contingency framework” areas the place primaries had been instructed to close.

A day earlier the schooling secretary, Gavin Williamson, revealed that secondary colleges and schools could be closed to most pupils for the primary two weeks of January. His instruction that primary colleges additionally stay closed inside 50 native authorities in London and the south of England shocked many dad and mom. The ruling, which covers almost a 3rd of England’s 152 schooling authorities, is in place till 18 January, when the federal government mentioned it might assessment their standing.

But council and college leaders complain they’ve been left at the hours of darkness over why the “contingency framework” areas have been chosen or how future choices can be made.

In a letter, the chief of Haringey, Joseph Ejiofor, mentioned: “At the current time, when infection rates in parts of London with lower rates than Haringey are deemed by the government too high to allow children and staff to return, it cannot be safe for children and teaching staff in Haringey to do so. Consequently, we believe that all primary schools in Haringey should therefore open only to the children of key workers and vulnerable children next week and we will support all our schools in this approach.”

Haringey and different London boroughs which have been instructed to maintain their primary colleges open have written to Williamson asking him to reverse the choice.

Danny Thorpe, the chief of Greenwich borough in south-west London, mentioned: “There appears to be no logic to how this list was brought together. Kensington and Chelsea has one of the lowest infection rates for the whole of the capital, yet their children and young people are being afforded the extra protection that apparently Greenwich students don’t need.”

The authorities’s order will shut primary colleges within the City of Westminster, the place an infection charges are among the many lowest in London, whereas leaving these in Hackney, Greenwich and Lambeth open regardless of an infection charges being larger.


The authorities has given few particulars on the way it reached its resolution. MPs have been instructed in a briefing this week that an infection charges, hospital capability and “speed of transmission” have been taken into consideration.

A Department for Education spokesperson mentioned: “Decisions on which areas can be topic to the contingency framework are based mostly on shut work with Public Health England, the NHS, the Joint Biosecurity Centre and throughout authorities to watch the variety of new infections, positivity charges, and pressures on the NHS.

“These measures will be reviewed every two weeks, and we hope they will be in place for the shortest period possible.”

Paul Whiteman, common secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, mentioned his union could be formally asking the federal government to clarify its choices.

“There is obviously a huge amount of concern over how it can be safe for schools in some tier 4 areas to open while schools in other tier 4 areas are being told to move to remote learning. In some instances this means different approaches for schools only a few roads away from each other,” Whiteman mentioned.

The educating unions are prone to welcome a advice from the federal government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies for face masks to be worn in schooling settings.

A brand new Sage doc contemplating the dangers from the brand new Covid B117 variant mentioned that “enhanced mitigation measures are likely to be necessary including … reinforcing the importance of using face coverings, including in settings where they are not currently mandated, such as education, workplaces, and crowded outdoor spaces”.

The authorities additionally toughened its stance on in-school Covid-19 testing, making it obligatory for secondary colleges and schools to check all college students initially of time period after having earlier mentioned it might be non-compulsory.

But many heads say they are going to battle to take action within the time accessible. One, talking anonymously, mentioned the unreliability of self-administered lateral move exams being offered by the federal government “would, in all probability, allow for increased transmission in schools”.

“I have no spare staff resource for this purpose and, even if I did, I would view it as a gross misuse of manpower,” he added.

Geoff Barton, chief of the Association of School and College Leaders, mentioned: “The government needs to remember that schools and colleges are educational institutions, not medical facilities. It should ensure they are properly supported, not use legal powers to try to bludgeon through unworkable policies.”

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