Schools told they can break up day early to avoid Covid problems

Pupils walking to school

Hundreds of pupils are learning from home as almost 200 education settings in Norfolk have been forced to take measures following positive coronavirus cases. - Credit: PA Images

Some Norfolk schools are set to be closed on the last Friday of term so staff have a "proper break" from identifying coronavirus cases ahead of Christmas.

Schools standards minister Nick Gibb said the Government wants there to be a "clear six days" ahead of Christmas Eve so teachers and heads do not have to "engage with track and trace issues" throughout the festive break.

Reception pupil Braydon washes his hands whilst watching an electronic timer at Queen's Hill Primary

School have been told they can close early so teachers and heads do not have to "engage with track and trace issues" throughout the festive break. - Credit: PA

Among the schools that have said they will definitely be closed from Thursday, December 17, are Colman Infant and Junior schools in Norwich.

Headteacher Julie Sandford wrote to parents on Wednesday stating: “This is a day earlier than expected and I apologise for the short notice but schools were only notified of this by the Department for Education yesterday.” 

The Government in its Covid-19 Winter Plan last month had told schools not to change their Christmas holidays or close early.

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But confirming they could now take an extra inset day on December 18, Mr Gibb told MPs this week: "We want to make sure that school staff can have a proper break over Christmas. We know they've been under huge stress."

Geoff Barton, former Bury St Edmunds head and general secretary of the ASCL.

Geoff Barton, former Bury St Edmunds head and general secretary of the ASCL. - Credit: Archant Library

Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union, and a former head in Bury St Edmunds, said: "A single day is better than nothing, but it still means that school and college leaders will have to continue contact tracing in the event of positive cases through to Wednesday, December 23.

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"It also leaves them responsible, at very short notice, for informing families that they will need to self-isolate over the Christmas period."

However the late change has been criticised by some Norfolk headteachers who are also unhappy about the perception that it is to give teachers a break.

Binks Neate-Evans, executive principal at Evolution Academy Trust, which has primary schools in Norwich, tweeted: “Just wondering what we did as a profession to be treated like this.”

Do you think schools should close early for Christmas? Picture: PA Wire/PA Images/Jane Barlow

Some schools could close early for Christmas. - Credit: PA

A secondary school headteacher, who preferred not to be named, said: “The majority of heads who have been in communication with me are annoyed by the late notice and by the notion that it would be 'an extra day off'. It most certainly would not. 

“If schools opt to take the inset day, teachers will not be shopping or resting, they will be training. The idea that we can put this in place and make it meaningful at such late notice is, to be frank, insulting.”

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