COUNCILS in Berkshire are not planning to close schools early for the Christmas holidays despite growing concerns over the rise in Coronavirus cases.
As the Government pushes ahead with ‘Plan B’ rules, Omicron cases were confirmed across areas in Berkshire.
The news comes after Downing Street said on Monday, December 13, schools should not be closing early for Christmas unless they have been told it is “necessary” on public health grounds.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman indicated that schools would be kept open unless there is an “absolute public health emergency”.
Local authorities have been warned against shutting schools early for the festive break simply as a precautionary measure.
Today, however, the five councils in Berkshire confirmed to the News that they were all planning to keep schools open as normal, with the last day of the current term being Friday, December 17.
Some schools may close to pupils earlier if there are scheduled teacher-training days, and in Arborfield Cross, one primary has closed its school due to “a lack of operational capacity”
A Bracknell Forest Council spokesperson said: “We will not be advising schools to close early for the Christmas holidays, unless they are required to on public health grounds.”
Similarly, a Wokingham Borough Council spokesperson said: “At this stage, we are following Government guidance and has no plans for schools to close before the of the end of term on Friday.
“Our Children’s Covid-19 Taskforce are going above and beyond to support schools, and are in daily contact with headteachers by phone, email, and virtual meetings, providing advice, guidance, and important information to share with parents and guardians. Like many organisations, schools are experiencing significant staff shortages, and school leaders and governors will as always make local decisions regarding provision based on staff availability and operational safety. ”
Each of Berkshire’s five councils also confirmed they had not held any discussions with schools regarding any changes to the end-of-term date.
Pupil attendance on the run up to Christmas
School leaders have warned of worse attendance among pupils and staff due to Covid-19 over the last few days as the Omicron variant has spread.
Among pupils out of class for Covid-19 reasons on Thursday last week, the main reason for absence was a confirmed case of coronavirus, figures show.
Approximately 109,400 pupils in England were off for this reason, up from 105,600 on November 25, and approximately 90,900 were off with a suspected case, up from around 79,300.
About 14,000 were absent due to isolation for other reasons, up from around 12,200 on November 25.
The Department for Education (DfE) estimates that 2.9% of all pupils – nearly 236,000 children – were not in class for reasons connected to coronavirus on December 9.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “This latest increase in Covid-related absences comes as no real surprise given the current situation nationally.
“However, our concern is that this data is already out of date and actually under-estimates the scale of the issue schools are currently dealing with.
“Over the last few days we have heard from our members that there has been a significant jump in Covid cases in schools, amongst both staff and pupils, as the new variant has started to spread.”