School closures amid concerns of Covid transmission


Amid mixed messages over the weekend, there is confusion and growing frustration across the country over whether parents can, or should, be sending their children into their primary schools this morning.

Secondary schools are staying closed this week, except for vulnerable and key workers’ children; and the official line from the Department for Education is only primary schools in certain Tier 4 areas (including Rother and Hasting) should remain closed.

Yesterday (Sunday) on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show (32:39), the Prime Minister insisted that schools are safe. However, The National Education Union (NEU) has advised its members not to return to the classroom. Its General Secretary, Dr Mary Bousted, said primary schools should stay closed for two weeks to “break the chain” of transmission and prevent the NHS becoming “overwhelmed”.

In our area, High Hurstwood and St Mary’s have closed for all years, and Fermor is closed to Reception and Year 1 pupils only.

On their website High Hurstwood have said:

Please note that this school is temporarily closed due to staff shortages. However, children of Key Workers can attend as usual. Updates to follow.

High Hurstwood CofE Primary School website

The Head Teacher at Sir Henry Fermor CofE Primary School, Mrs Sacha Strand, emailed parents at 8pm last night to inform them not to send their Reception and Year 1 children into school this morning.

As one of the parents affected said:

I received an email at 8.11pm on Sunday evening informing me that my son would not be going back to school.

I am livid at receiving such late notice. I work full time and have no childcare options. The school have provided no indication about when the classes will return.

I simply don’t know how we’re meant to cope with being thrown into this situation at such ridiculously short notice.

Fermor parent who wants to remain anonymous

In her letter, Mrs Strand, apologised for the extremely late notification and promised to write again on Monday concerning arrangements for the rest of the week. She confirmed other years will be taught as usual in their classrooms.

I am very sorry for the significant inconvenience for those parents already committed to working tomorrow but can assure you I will work [sic] continue to work tirelessly to ensure we have a provision for the vulnerable children and children of critical workers in year 1 and EYFS, from Tuesday.

Mrs Sacha Strand, Head Teacher at Sir Henry Fermor CofE Primary School

The NEU’s website gives advice to teachers, along with a model letter to send to their head teacher explaining they will be working from home on safety grounds.

In defiance to the Government, Brighton and Hove City Council has advised primary schools to delay reopening and teach remotely until 18th January.

Click to download the letter to parents and carers of pupils at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School regarding school provision from Monday 4th January.

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  1. The Fermor parent you quote is furious with the school. Perhaps she should cast her ire wider. All day yesterday politicians were giving out conflicting and confusing messages, whilst most (Williamson gone AWOL again) refused to be interviewed by BBC journalists on respected news programmes. Unions, whose job it is to look after their members, naturally don’t want teachers and support staff picking up Covid-19 when the new variant virus is much more widely spread among school children, albeit having a less severe effect on their health. Simple maths: if teachers’ and support staff’s numbers are diminished through illness or self-isolation, schools cannot function properly. You can’t cram 60 children into one class and teach them all together, not with Covid regulations. Schools have carefully worked out procedures, bubbles and lessons to cope with Covid and its regulations, yet politicians who keep changing their minds (‘guided by the science’ – the scientists they choose, perhaps), do no favours to the education system. Online lessons don’t drop out of the sky, it’s professionals, i.e. teachers, who have to devise them, while at the same time working full time on classroom and other work, often while short-staffed. The parent who complained should understand that a teacher’s job is to educate children, not act as a child minder so that parents can go to work.

    What I think many people don’t realise, is that teachers have had no proper break since last March. Key workers’ and vulnerable children have to be in schools so their parents can work. Other children are ordered to stay home. So teachers have to prepare lessons online for those at home whilst also teaching those in front of them, and vulnerable children often need a special approach, requiring more preparation and care than for the bulk of children. Then the rules change and all are back in school, except those who are self-isolating at home, so teachers have to prepare online lessons for them, even though some children have no means of following this online learning, as the only technology they have in the house is maybe their mother’s smartphone, needed for her work, or to find a job. All this hinders those children’s education, especially when government months ago promised laptops for those in such situations, a promise largely broken.

    Teachers have spent their holidays preparing suitable lessons, only to have government change its mind and all that preparation has to be scrapped and started again. On the day before the Christmas holidays started, letters had been sent to parents outlining the plans for this new term. Government then announced, at that last minute, that some in Tier 4 would open and some not, Chaos. Teachers then were obliged (in their Christmas holidays) to rewrite letters to all parents, re-plan lessons, seek permission from parents to have their children tested, source and train volunteers to carry out the training. Why are teachers now medics and social workers, and then blamed when things are inconvenient for parents? Only recently, teachers were compiling and delivering food parcels to homes. Should this be their job?

    Instead of blaming teachers, parents should support them, and demand that teachers are immediately listed as being urgently in need of vaccinations. That might be one step on the road to some sort of stability. Psychiatrists are worried about children’s mental health during the pandemic: I wonder how many teachers will throw in the towel after this is over, like health staff suffering burnout? But they are easy targets: one gutter rag shouted about militant teachers not wanting to work. Those ‘journalists’ should spend one day in a class of thirty five-year-olds under normal circumstances, let alone under pandemic conditions, and see how they’d cope.

    Support our teachers!

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