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Back to school? Primaries in Camden cleared to reopen next week

Staggered return for secondary school pupils

31 December, 2020 — By Harry Taylor

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson

THE handling of school reopenings in the New Year has been criticised as “entirely without rationale,” by the head of Camden’s teaching union, as secondary schools will stay closed until the middle of January, but primaries will open as normal.

Exam year students will return on January 11, while other secondary-aged pupils will go back to face-to-face classroom learning a week after that. Last night (Wednesday), the Department for Education published a list of several London boroughs where primary schools would also see a staggered return after the Christmas holidays, including in neighbouring Westminster.

But Camden and Islington will not be subject to this order.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “We know how vitally important it is for younger children to be in school for their education, wellbeing and wider development.”

Gerald Clark, branch secretary of Camden NEU said he understood the situation was fast moving, but said the government’s decision making processes had created “many sleepless nights for school staff and headteachers over the Christmas break”. He criticised the education secretary for not having a plan and being reactive.

Mr Clark said: “The latest decisions announced yesterday were issued entirely without rationale.  Why Camden primary schools should be open on Monday, but Westminster primary schools should remain closed is a mystery.  It doesn’t appear to be based on numbers of infections or rates.

“If Gavin Williamson wants schools and members of the public to be on board with his decisions, he should work with the profession, clearly explain the plan and rationale.  All of this could have been done, but without doing so, it seems clear that he doesn’t have a plan, that he is acting reactively and not pro-actively.  This will not inspire trust in the profession or the community.

“Camden NEU believes that Camden schools are safe for children to return to, but that is down to an immense amount of hard work by the staff in the schools and we can completely understand why parents would be confused by the messaging.  Gavin Williamson certainly doesn’t have the trust of the profession.”

Military personnel are getting ready to help schools with training and advice on testing in secondary schools for teachers and children. The measures were outlined with calls for the entire system to be switched to home learning amid a surging number of Covid cases – many of them said to be a new variant which spreads more easily.

The government said the fightback against the virus had been boosted by the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for use and the rollout would begin.

But it also announced 981 new deaths across the UK in the latest 24-hour period.

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