With rising COVID-19 cases, secondary schools will officially remain shut until 18 January – but primary schools across the country have also decided to stay closed
Yesterday (3 January) the UK logged 54,990 new cases of COVID-19, with 494 confirmed deaths. In an interview on the same day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Andrew Marr that schools should open, describing “public health risks” posed by young students missing out on their formative education.
According to Ofcom, between 1.1 million and 1.8 million children in the UK do not have access to a laptop, desktop or tablet at home. A further 880,000 children only have a mobile internet connection. UNICEF has estimated that 463 million children worldwide, or one of every three school-aged learners, do not have the tools they need to participate fully in virtual schooling.
The children who don’t have access to technology will need extra support if schools are closed, to prevent their social and academic isolation. A WHO report on global child abuse found that the pandemic caused heightened stress for parents, from lost income, social isolation and potential crowding. Calls to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children “rose by 20%”, while referrals to child protection services fell.
Which primary schools are still closed?
According to Politico London, some primary schools remain closed on the first official day of term in: Essex, Slough, Surrey, Cheltenham, Newcastle, Lancaster, Leicester, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Liverpool, Buckinghamshire, County Durham, West Sussex, Sheffield, Cumbria, Bedford, Bristol, High Wycombe, Eastbourne, Wolverhampton, Leeds, Lancashire, North Yorkshire, Berkshire, Birmingham, Oxfordshire, Northampton, Manchester and Brighton.
Lessons from the latest data?
With figures for hospitalisation increasing at disturbing speed in early 2021, parents and local authorities shared the same concern – would sending their children to school risk their own infection? The UK Government is standing behind the opening of primary schools, with PM Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson describing these places as having taken appropriate precautions. However, teachers across the country are hesitant to get back into a classroom after the Christmas break – during which time, it was legal in Tier 3 areas to spend Christmas day with 3 other households.
The National Education Union (NEU) said that all primary schools should remain closed for atleast two weeks. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson wrote in the Daily Mail yesterday (3 January), that: “Keeping our kids out of classrooms is damaging. We know that as parents and we know it from the data. It is for this reason that keeping schools open has been a national priority.”
He further described schools as “safe”, while giving London primary schools the green-light to stay closed until 18 January atleast. In a separate statement, he describes this move as “a last resort and temporary solution.”
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