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The Government Has U-Turned And Will Keep All Primary Schools In London Closed For The Start Of Term

The Government Has U-Turned And Will Keep All Primary Schools In London Closed For The Start Of Term
3 min read

Primary schools across London and some in the south of England will remain closed at the start of the spring term, after a u-turn from the education secretary Gavin Williamson.

The change comes as the number of Covid-19 cases continue to rise. 2021 began with 53,285 more Covid cases and 613 deaths being reported.

On Thursday, Williamson said primary schools in some parts of Tier 4 would close in January where there wre the highest number of cases. This was to "break the chain of transmission," Williamson said, and only vulnerable children and those of key workers will be able to attend school in those areas face to face. 

This however, was followed by a letter from nine London boroughs asking Williamson to reverse his plans to reopen primary schools in some areas.

However, on Friday London mayor Sadiq Khan confirmed that all primary schools across the capital would close. He wrote on Twitter: "This is the right decision - and I want to thank education minister Nick Gibb for our constructive conversations over the past two days."

The original list only included 22 London boroughs, and more in Kent, Essex and parts of Hertfordshire.

These areas are being placed into a 'contingency framework'. 

On Thursday, Williamson said the majority of primary schools across the country would open as usual on January 4, and testing for primary staff begins in mid-January.

In secondary schools, the first week of term will be used by staff to prepare their mass testing system for staff and students. Though they will be open for vulnerable children and those of key workers. 

Exam year pupils will go back on January 11, and they will be tested on their return. In most areas of England the rest of the school year groups will be able to go back on January 18. 

However secondaries in some specific Tier 4 areas will close, and learning take place online, apart from those in exam years, vulnerable children and those who are the children of critical workers. 

University students will be offered two rapid tests on their return but staff are requesting a staggered return to campus, with priority given to those who have practical parts of their degrees.

To help remote learning Williamson said they would delivering thousands of "devices", presumed to mean tablets and laptops, for children at the start of January. The government has said 560,000 devices have been delivered to schools and councils since the start of the pandemic. 

Early years will remain open nationally, as will alternative provision and special schools.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said the government was losing control of children's education and the challenges to families caused by school closures is significant. 

She asked for him to publish the scientific advice from the SAGE group behind the decision and for the locations of closures.

Information on which secondary schools will close, except to the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils will be released later in January.

Update: This post was updated to reflect a change in policy from the Government on Friday 1 January.

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