York and North Yorkshire primary schools to open – despite concerns over safety

3 Jan 2021 @ 4.11 pm
| News

Primary schools in York, North Yorkshire and the East Riding will open as planned this week but unions say it’s not safe.

Secondary schools will open on:

  • 4 Jan – for children of key workers and vulnerable children
  • 11 Jan – for Year 11 and 13 students
  • 18 Jan – for all students

You should check with your school for details and dates of training days.

North Yorkshire Unison tweeted that it does not believe it is safe for school staff to return to work on Monday – except where only vulnerable and key worker children are attending.

The York branch of Unison has emailed members in the City of York council area with their latest advice too. They have also sent it to the council leader and education officers.

York Central MP Rachael Maskell said today: “I’ve just met with many York teachers.

“They want schools to be safe at a time when infection rates are soaring. Early interventions are better than the consequences of delays.”

She says there must be a “clear health-led strategy” to make sure schools are kept safe. Ms Maskell said: “The chaos and confusion from Government is tantamount to the education system in meltdown.”

She says she understands the impact that this is having on parents, pupils and the school community, however this need not have been the case, since SAGE advised Ministers to close schools before the school Christmas holidays, while also recognising the risk is higher in secondary schools.

“With the NHS becoming overwhelmed and the number of people with the virus sharply rising, we don’t need more guidance, we need a comprehensive plan,” the Labour MP said.

“​This would go a long way to support schools but also the wider community, protecting children, parents and grandparents alike.

“It is indefensible, the way that the Government is handling this crisis and I will support all pupils, parents, teachers, support staff and school leaders to ensure that the health and wellbeing of the whole school community is put first, both from this pandemic and the mental health of all those impacted.”

The corporate director of children and young people’s services at North Yorkshire County Council, Stuart Carlton, said: “North Yorkshire’s schools have had arrangements in place for several months to allow teaching to take place online.

“This was put in place as part of their response to the pandemic and this will be used for those affected secondary school and college year groups from the start of term, until face-to-face teaching can resume.

North Yorkshire’s schools and children’s services are working hard to minimise disruption to pupils’ education and to take care of their mental and emotional wellbeing throughout this time.

Some secondary schools and colleges will be offering staff and students coronavirus testing during the new term, which will build on the extensive measures already in place to ensure schools remain safe places to be.”

It says the advice applies to all members working in primary, special, early years and SEN provision.

York Green Party has joined calls for a rethink. Local chair, Tom Franklin, says:

“We applaud the leadership taken by Brighton & Hove Council in using the precautionary principle to advise primary schools to delay reopening and to teach remotely. We stand in support of the teachers and children and their families who would be at greater risk of contracting Covid-19 with a return to in-person teaching.

Government have too often made decisions too late and have already U-turned and agreed to keep schools closed in some Tier 4 areas, some of which have lower infection rates than parts of the North, including York.

Whilst schools will make their own decision about reopening, there would be far more clarity and less stress for all concerned if there were a consistent approach of providing online learning (for all except vulnerable children and those of key workers) across the country for at least the first two weeks of term, in line with UNISON and NEU guidance.

This would allow more time for key workers to be vaccinated and testing arrangements to be put in place for all schools.

The decision has been left far too late and there will be much uncertainty tomorrow. Public health and the protection of frontline staff in schools must be a priority” He added.

What the party leaders say

Boris Johnson said he hopes lateral flow tests will help with the return of schools.

The Prime Minister said: “We’re going to work with local authorities, work with schools and those responsible up and down the country.

“Our advice remains the same, which is that for public health reasons we think in the large majority of the country, large parts of the country, it is sensible to continue to keep schools open, primary schools, as you know secondary schools coming back a bit later.

“And the second thing is that we are going to be ramping up testing across the whole of the system and I don’t think people have focused enough on this, if I may just for a second.

Labour leader Kier Starmer wants to see a new National Lockdown in 24 hours.

Sir Keir said: “The virus is clearly out of control.

“And there’s no good the Prime Minister hinting that further restrictions are coming into place in a week, or two or three.

“That delay has been the source of so many problems.

“So, I say bring in those restrictions now, national restrictions, within the next 24 hours.”