Saturday, 26 Nov 2022

School closures latest: Will your school close? All we know ahead of January term

First British Omicron victim was unvaccinated says step-son

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Daily Covid cases rose by a record 88,376 for the UK on Thursday and cases of the Omicron variant now stand at nearly 12,000 – though it’s feared many more people are infected with the variant. In recent weeks, the Government has introduced several national Covid restrictions for the UK but has so far opted to not close schools down. So, ahead of the new school term in January, are schools likely to be shut?

Under current Government guidance, UK schools are expected to offer in-person teaching when they return in 2022.

Alex Burghart, the Education Secretary, has said measures would be put in place in England to ensure “we have the best chance for the start of a normal school term”.

These include:

  • Testing on return to school
  • Increased vaccination uptake
  • Improved classroom ventilation
  • Enhanced hygiene

However, the Conservative Chairman of the Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon, told MPs on Wednesday that it appeared England was “moving, sadly, towards de facto school closures”.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants schools to remain open “if at all possible” to prevent further disruption to pupils’ learning.

She added that new advice as to how schools could operate safely in early 2022 would be published before the end of the current term.

Elsewhere, the Welsh education minister, Jeremy Miles, has said that schools and colleges could opt to take two “planning days” at the start of the spring term so that they could assess staffing levels and put in place any measures they deem necessary.

Staggered starting and finishing times across classes can also be implemented by schools if they wish to do so.

In Northern Ireland, one teaching union has called for a phased return to classes in January.

Before the end of the current school term, some schools were forced to completely close due to Covid outbreaks amongst staff and pupils.

These included institutions in York, Hillingdon and Leicestershire, while some schools spread within five areas of Wales chose to move all pupils to online learning.

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Earlier this week, the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, warned while he doesn’t “want to see” schools close, he couldn’t offer a guarantee that would be the case.

Meanwhile, the Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, has said that he will do “everything” in his power to make sure schools don’t close again.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he said: “We are absolutely working to make sure that all schools are open, that they’re protected.

“We know that a booster works. Get boosted, protect yourself, protect your community and let’s get through this and transition this from pandemic to endemic.”

During the pandemic, UK schools have seen various Covid restrictions imposed on them and closed down altogether on two occasions.

In early 2020 when the pandemic first hit – shortly before the first national lockdown came in – schools across the British Isles were ordered to shut their doors.

By March 20, 2020, schools in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had all switched their teaching to online. Indeed, it wouldn’t be until September of that year before most returned to face-face teaching.

As a result of the disruption caused to students’ learning, the UK Government announced an unprecedented move by cancelling all GCSE and A-Level exams.

Instead, grades were awarded to students based on their predicted scores and individual teacher assessments.

Then, amid rapid growth in Covid cases between December 2020 and January of this year, schools across the UK reverted back to online teaching for several months.

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