James O'Brien 10am - 1pm
Schools can close early on 18 December to give teachers a 'proper break'
9 December 2020, 10:33
An extra inset day for schools on Christmas could be announced so teachers can enjoy Christmas Eve without worrying about track and trace issues.
Schools Standards Minister Nick Gibb told MPs an 18 December inset day would allow teachers to have a "proper break" without having to "engage in the track and trace issues" on Christmas Eve.
Speaking to a virtual Education Select Committee, Mr Gibb said: "We are about to announce that inset days can be used on Friday 18 December, even if an inset day had not been originally scheduled for that day.
"We want there to be a clear six days so that by the time we reach Christmas Eve staff can have a proper break without having to engage in the track and trace issues."
Teachers are expected to be available for the first six days of the festive holidays to help with contact tracing and informing families if they need to isolate.
They had previously been told they must expect to be on call right up to 24 December to help with track and trace in case Covid-19 outbreaks are identified at schools.
Mr Gibb acknowledged the “huge stress” school staff have been under, adding: “I don’t think some of the senior leadership teams of schools have had a break at all since the pandemic began.”
However, the inset day will be taken from 2021's allocated days, according to a report in Schools Week.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders' union, had warned that schools could see a "steep drop" in pupil attendance next week as parents seek to prioritise family safety ahead of Christmas.
But the news of an extra inset day will ensure teachers have the day off on Christmas Eve.
The minister's comments came after a headteachers' union said giving schools the flexibility to switch to remote learning for the final few days of term next week is an "obvious and straightforward solution".
In its Covid-19 Winter Plan last month, the government had told schools in England not to change their Christmas holidays or close early this term.