Coronavirus: Will schools in England close early for Christmas?

14 December 2020, 21:18

The government is locked in a battle with some councils about keeping schools open
The government is locked in a battle with some councils about keeping schools open. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will be plunged into Tier 3 restrictions this week due to rising coronavirus cases - so will schools in England close early for Christmas?

Parents and pupils across England have been left confused over whether or not education settings will remain open for the rest of the week.

Keeping children in school has long been a "national priority" for the government during the Covid-19 pandemic and remains so to this day.

However, with a number of local authorities either urging closures or moving to online-learning ahead of the Christmas break, followed by the government ordering Greenwich Council to withdraw its request to schools to stay shut, it is unclear whether teaching will still go ahead.

It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will be subject to the strictest coronavirus restrictions from 00:01am on Wednesday.

So will schools close early before the Christmas break? And when will schoolchildren return to classes?

Will schools close early for Christmas?

No10 has said it "expects" schools and colleges to stay open until the end of term on Thursday despite a rise in coronavirus infections in London and the South East.

On Monday, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson used emergency legal powers to force Greenwich Council to keep schools open, meaning it is unlikely the government will sanction nationwide closures.

A Department for England spokeswoman said it is a "national priority" to keep education settings open and it is vital that children remain in school until the end of the term.

Read more: No10 demands schools stay open despite Covid spike

Explained: When is London moving into Tier 3 and for how long?

Read more: Sadiq Khan calls for secondary schools to close early for Christmas

However, Greenwich Council advised schools to close by Monday night while Islington Council demanded the same of its schools by Tuesday, except for vulnerable children and those of key workers.

In Essex, eight of the nine secondary schools in Basildon have moved to full remote education, the county council confirmed on Monday.

And nationwide, schools have been told they are allowed to shut for an inset day on Friday 18 December.

When will schools reopen after Christmas?

With schools nationwide seemingly remaining open until the end of term, it could suggest the government will make pupils return to the classroom on time after the Christmas break.

However, earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's official spokesman would not confirm whether schools would reopen on time after the holidays.

“We will obviously keep the latest scientific data and information under review,” he said.

Read more: 'New variant' of coronavirus identified in UK, Hancock says

Explained: Coronavirus - what parts of Essex are in Tier 3?

Read more: London Tier 3 - Capital to follow toughest Covid rules

“That’s what we’ve done throughout the pandemic and that’s what we’ll continue to do. But again I would point back to… the importance of school and the need for pupils to be able to continue to learn.”

Islington Council said in a statement that it had advised schools to remain closed after the Christmas break and continue online learning until 11 January.

However, people should check their local council's website for further information on term dates after Christmas.

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