Brighton advises primary schools to remain closed to curb Covid-19 cases

2 January 2021, 19:16 | Updated: 3 January 2021, 06:58

Brighton has become the latest city to advise primary schools to remain closed after the Christmas break
Brighton has become the latest city to advise primary schools to remain closed after the Christmas break. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Brighton has become the latest city to advise primary schools to remain closed after the Christmas break, as the rebellion against the Government's decision to keep them open grows.

The Government U-turned on Friday night on the decision to open some primary schools in London, leading to increasing pressure from teaching unions to delay the reopening of all schools in England.

Brighton and Hove City Council has now said primary schools can teach remotely until January 18 due to increased rates of Covid-19, and has written to Gavin Williamson asking to be included in the schools allowed to remain online-only.

The area is currently under Tier 4 Covid-19 restrictions.

Read more: Government under pressure to keep all schools closed after U-turn in London

Councillor Hannah Clare, chair of the Children, Young People & Skills Committee, they are "sorry" that "many families" will now face challenges with childcare, but accused the Government of leaving them to " make this decision that it is not brave enough to face".

She added: "Our published data - up to December 27 - shows that the rate in Brighton & Hove has increased by more than 500% since we came out of lockdown at the beginning of December. It is currently 388 per 100,000.

Gavin Williamson is under increasing pressure to allow all schools to close until January 18
Gavin Williamson is under increasing pressure to allow all schools to close until January 18. Picture: PA

"However, the early indications are that this sharp increase is continuing and we will approach rates of approximately 500 per 100,000 in the next few days. This rapid increase is mirrored in the rates in our children and young people.

"We therefore must do this to protect our NHS from being overwhelmed and ensure that our city's children, school staff and the wider community are kept as safe as possible."

Read more: First Oxford Covid-19 vaccines arrive in hospitals ready for rollout

Mr Williamson is now facing mounting pressure for the rest of the country to be allowed to close all primary and secondary schools for two weeks following the Christmas break, with the NASUWT has writing to the Education Secretary calling for an "immediate nationwide move to remote education" for all pupils.

The National Education Union has also advised primary school staff it is unsafe to return to classrooms on Monday.

The school row comes after figures showed a record-high 57,725 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Saturday, with another 445 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

This was the fifth day in a row daily cases have been above 50,000, with the previous high of 55,892 cases reported on New Year's Eve - the highest since mass testing began in late May.

Mr Williamson has previously said the decision to close all London primary schools was a "last resort".

Meanwhile, the National Association of Headteachers says it has begun legal action against the Department for Education over the government's insistence schools must reopen.

The process covers a range of issues including the scientific advice the Government is drawing on as well as proposals for testing in schools.

Dr Bousted told LBC's Andrew Castle: "I think the best thing is for schools to be open and for children to be educated.

"But we're in the middle of a public crisis - we have a new viral infection, a new strain of Covid, which Imperial College modelling says young people can catch it more easily.

"We've got hospitals being overwhelmed, we've got incidents being declared in Essex and in Kent.

"I heard yesterday of a surgeon in a London hospital saying they've got a children's ward of Covid patients which was never there in the first pandemic.

"We know that children are disproportionately unlikely to get Covid, but there may be something happening with this new strain.

Read more: Gavin Williamson refuses to rule out prosecutions for keeping kids at home during pandemic

"The first duty of the Government is to protect the health of its citizens, and what we're saying is get this right and get schools open safely.

"Stop this chaos, this last minute changing, with parents not knowing from one day to the next whether their child will be in school."

From January 4, London primary schools will be required to provide remote learning for two weeks to all children except vulnerable children and those of key workers, who will be permitted to continue to attend.

Under the Government's initial plan, secondary schools and colleges were set to be closed to most pupils for the first two weeks of January, while primary schools within 50 local authorities in London and the south of England were also told to keep their doors shut until January 18.