Amid rising rates of coronavirus infection, local authorities postpone returning to classrooms
In the face of rising rates of coronavirus infection, parents face more chaos and confusion as local authorities around the country struggle to postpone the reopening of schools. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged that, in the coming weeks, more schools could be closed.
Essex council announced it would unilaterally shut schools for most pupils until at least Wednesday, the day before millions of children were expected to return to their classrooms, and Kent County Council joined England’s largest education authority in Birmingham in urging the education secretary to keep elementary school closed. They said that “not valid.” was the argument for reopening them in the face of high infection rates.
Principals in Newcastle, Manchester and Gateshead have said they will help elementary schools that chose not to reopen entirely.
Some elementary schools in Slough have announced that they will not reopen this week, and the Council of the City of Brighton and Hove has told primary schools not to return in person, with the exception of children from disadvantaged families or in key positions.
The steps came as the Labour Party called for a national lockdown within 24 hours, warning that the virus was “out of control.” Party leader Keir Starmer said it was “inevitable” that more schools would have to do so, while not calling for the closing of all schools.
His remarks came after Johnson cautioned that “closure rules are getting tougher” and acknowledged that school closures may be part of infection-quenching steps as official statistics revealed 54,990 additional laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases and 454 other deaths in Britain.
But this week, the prime minister also encouraged parents to send their kids to elementary school: “I understand people’s fears, but I have no doubt that schools are safe and that education is a priority.”
Elementary school students in all but 60 areas with high levels of infection, including all of London, large parts of Essex and Kent, and parts of East Sussex, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, were scheduled to return to classrooms beginning on Monday.
Except for disadvantaged children and those whose parents are key staff, secondary schools will remain closed to all children this week. They will not reopen until next week for pupils who face GCSE and A-level tests in Years 11 and 13. From January 18, they are scheduled to reopen entirely.
However, the education minister, Gavin Williamson, said on Sunday that reopenings will only take place in areas where the emergency system has not been implemented, opening the door for secondary schools in more seriously affected areas to remain closed for most students by the second half of January.
The Department of Education is planning for more remote learning and said it plans to deliver on Monday to schools more than 50,000 laptops and tablets and in the first week of school more than 100,000 in total.
A DfE spokesman said, “Children’s education has always been a national priority, which is why we want classrooms to reopen as widely as possible in the new school year.
To mitigate the risk of transmission, schools will have to take effective safety steps.
As we have said before, we will outsource teaching as a last resort, involving health authorities, in places where the risk of infection and pressure on the NHS is greatest.
During the first lockdown, the government was criticized for failing to deliver on a pledge to provide laptops to deprived children.
Councilor Garry Bridges, Manchester City Council’s education officer, emphasized that “the best place for children is in school,” but said “a London-centric focus.” was demonstrated by the new policy of closing schools only in the south.
“We are not giving blanket advice to schools to remain closed at the moment, but will work with individual schools to make the right decision for their circumstances and support them in any way we can,” he said.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham called on the government to allow “local flexibility” in determining which schools to open to the most students and “to encourage principals to take a chosen one”