Ministers are to DELAY reopening of classrooms after Christmas with a ‘staggered’ return for pupils and online lessons amid surge in Covid cases – days after Gavin Williamson threatened councils with legal action if they closed early
- Education Secretary Gavin Williamson expected to make announcement later
- January 4 and 5 return to be replaced with online lessons for some pupils
- English secondary pupils currently have highest covid rates of any age group
Thousands of secondary school pupils in England will have their return to school delayed by up to a week after the Christmas holidays amid a Covid crisis in the classroom.
Downing Street confirmed that the planned January 4 and 5 restart would now be ‘staggered’ with the use of online lessons, with full face-to-face learning beginning on January 11.
It came as figures showed more than half of schools in England had coronavirus cases during the first two weeks of November’s lockdown and those aged 12-18 have the highest infection rate of any age group.
The move comes just days after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson took legal action against London councils which wanted to close schools early before Christmas.
He is expected to outline the post-Christmas plan more fully later today.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘The start of the term won’t be delayed but what we are doing is asking secondary schools and colleges to operate a staggered return supported by full-time remote education during the first week of term with in-person teaching in full starting on January 11.
‘Students in exam year groups, vulnerable children, children of key workers, will attend school or college in person from the start of term as well as students in primary, special and alternative provision schools and colleges.’
Susan Acland-Hood, the top civil servant at the Department for Education, was unable to confirm to MPs today that schools would go back on time.
Facing the Public Accounts Committee she said there were no plans to extend the Christmas holiday. But she added: ‘There are conversations going on about exactly how parents and pupils will go back at the beginning of January’
Susan Acland-Hood, the top civil servant at the Department for Education, was unable to confirm to MPs today that schools would go back on time, ahead of the announcement.
Facing the Public Accounts Committee she said there were no plans to extend the Christmas holiday.
But she added: ‘There are conversations going on about exactly how parents and pupils will go back at the beginning of January, but I’m afraid I can’t speak to the committee about that this morning…
‘I cannot communicate a decision that has not yet been made or communicated by ministers.’
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to make an announcement later that the January 4 and 5 restart will be replaced with online lessons amid fears about the spread of coronavirus among teenagers
On Monday Mr Williamson issued a temporary continuity direction to Greenwich Council after it told local schools to move lessons online.
England’s chief inspector of schools, Ofsted boss Amanda Spielman, blasted councils for taking the ‘easy’ option as parents and children had been left in limbo after the Government became locked in a legal battle with left-wing councils and education unions in an effort to keep schools open.
Meg Hillier, the PAC chairwoman, said today it was ‘ludicrous’ that on the last day of term for many schools in England that parents and school leaders do not know what is happening in the first week of January.