Scores of Norfolk schools will not reopen today

Colman Junior School. Photo: Google

Colman Junior School. Photo: Google - Credit: Archant

A rapidly growing number of Norfolk primary schools will not be reopening after the Christmas break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A government announcement on December 30 amid rising Covid-19 rates meant that secondary school pupils and college students in Norfolk - and across the county - would undergo a phased return to school.

All primary schools had been expected to reopen on Monday (January 4) but scores of schools in Norfolk will not be opening their doors to pupils tomorrow amid concern about rising coronavirus figures.

The move came after the National Education Union (NEU), which represents the majority of teachers, has called for all English primary schools to move online and advised its members it is not safe to return to classrooms on Monday.

Norfolk County Council said it is up to the individual school to decide whether pupils will be returning on Monday and insisted parents should check school communications to see if their school will be open.

Among the Norfolk primary schools which will not be opening tomorrow is Colman Junior School in Norwich.

In a letter to parents, headteacher Julie Sandford said: "Much has changed since the end of last term. We now find ourselves in Tier 4 and struggling to manage the transmission of the new strain of Covid both nationally and locally.

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"I have made the difficult decision to close both federation schools fully for the first two days of term.

"We currently do not have enough staff to operate safely and my intention is that both schools will reopen from Wednesday to key worker and vulnerable children only."

She also apologised for the short notice.

North Denes Primary School in Great Yarmouth also confirmed it will not be opening to pupils on Monday.

Discussing the confusion over whether primary schools should reopen or not, Stuart Allen, headteacher of Mile Cross Primary in Norwich, said: "All I've been told by Norfolk County Council so far is that it's still the decision of each headteacher."

He said the confusion around whether primary schools would be reopening or not "puts another black mark against the teaching profession, when actually we’re incredibly professional and trying to do the best by our children".

Primary school leaders in Norfolk and Waveney said they felt they had been left in limbo as they prepared to open on Monday - despite London schools being told they could stay shut.

Primaries in Norfolk and Suffolk are set to reopen on Monday, January 4, with the county in the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions, Tier 4: Stay at Home.

A message on the county council's website states: "Primary schools may need to stagger the return of children to school from Monday 4 January 2021. Your school will let you know if they cannot open for your child from Monday.

"The rate of COVID infection increased in Norfolk over the Christmas break. This may mean that some Norfolk schools do not know if they have enough staff to open safely.

"It is a headteacher's decision, with their governing body /trust, as to whether they can open safely. The council will support any school leader who makes a decision not to open for the majority of pupils on 4 January 2021. Each school will be responsible for this decision.

"Parents and carers should check their school communications to see if their school is closed on Monday 4 January.

"Children of critical workers and vulnerable children will be invited to attend as soon as possible. Contact your school to confirm your place in school from Monday 4 January - every school must open for those children, from the first day of term if they possibly can.

"It may take schools a day or two, or more, to decide whether they have enough staff to reopen to all children as soon as possible. Keep looking out for messages from your child's school to see when your child can go back to school. Children will be given some remote learning if they are at home. As Norfolk is in Tier 4 many parents and carers are expected to work from home if they can."

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