Newham primaries to delay reopening

Signage outside a closed West Bridgford Infants School in Nottingham. Photograp: Tim Goode/PA.

Newham primary schools are to delay reopening to all pupils after yesterday's announcement from government. - Credit: PA

Primary schools have been forced to delay reopening after the borough was included on a list of coronavirus hotspots.

Newham is one of 22 London boroughs where high infection rates have led the government to push back next week's planned reopening.

Primaries where the infection rates are highest will be expected to open only for "vulnerable" children and those of key workers. 

Testing of primary school pupils is expected to follow later in January, according to government plans. 

Secondary school pupils and college students are still expected to make a staggered return, but because infection rates are high among this group the government is allowing more time for mass testing.

Secondary pupils in exam years are to return from January 11 with the remainder returning on January 18 along with college students.

Secondaries and colleges have one week to prepare for mass testing from January 4.

Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson in his office at the Department of Education in We

Secretary of state for education Gavin Williamson. - Credit: PA/Stefan Rousseau

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Education secretary Gavin Williamson MP told the House of Commons on Wednesday, December 30: "With these plans, which allow for rapid testing and controlled return of schools, I am confident we can minimise the latest health risk posed by the virus."

Newham's branch of the National Education Union had called for a delayed reopening for all schools until at least January 18 to slow the infection rate's "exponential rise" and allow time for accurate, regular testing of children and staff.

Liam O'Hanrahan, NEU Newham assistant secretary, said before the announcement: "The alternative is that the Covid crisis could spiral out of control.

"It is impossible to reconcile the current reality with continuing to support normal opening," he added.

But he described government plans for school testing as "half-baked", alleging there is a "complete dearth" of time, information and guidance to organise it.

The NEU urged schools and local government to work with it to consult staff on health and safety. It also called on Westminster to provide IT equipment and internet access for remote learning.

The government expects to deliver more than 50,000 laptops and tablets to schools across the country on Monday (January 4) and 100,000 in total during the first week of term.

Newham Council has not commented.