Four schools in Lincolnshire have contacted the county council this week due to cases of coronavirus as Prime Minster Boris Johnson prepares to address the nation at 8pm on Monday evening over what further steps needed to be taken.
Campaigners nationally have called for schools to close and Chris Thompson, president of the Lincolnshire branch of the National Education Union (NEU) said the union believes “government insistence that schools remain open is reckless”.
It is not yet clear what exact announcements will be made by the PM, but it is understood there could be a tough national lockdown to come after the spread of the new virus variant led to rapidly escalating case numbers.
PM will be directly addressing the nation. It won’t be a press conference. Tier 4 restrictions will be imposed everywhere. Schools closed. No more team games in parks. But outdoor exercise will still be allowed. https://t.co/dhKbH2lkgC
— Robert Peston (@Peston) January 4, 2021
Lincolnshire County Council said school infection figures in the county are “well below the national average at around 1%” and want schools to stay open for face-to-face teaching where possible.
Andy Fox, consultant in public health, said: “We’ve had four schools make initial contact in the past seven days because of a pupil or staff member testing positive for coronavirus.
“The current rate of incidence in school age children in Lincolnshire is 132 cases per 100,000 over seven days, which is much lower than the rate of 291 cases per 100,000 for all ages, and has decreased over the last 3 weeks.”
Meanwhile, Monks Abbey Primary School in Lincoln said due to staff shortages it has put a plan in place for two weeks, including closing at lunchtime on a Friday.
Please check your emails regarding the latest update ready for the start of the Spring Term tomorrow – it’s not a decision that the SLT has taken lightly but it is the only (and safest) way to proceed in the current climate #Collaboration #MonksAbbeyRocks pic.twitter.com/P01a4hqVei
— Monks Abbey (@monksabbey) January 3, 2021
Spalding Primary School announced on Monday that it would be open for Reception and Year 3 only.
The majority of primary schools were allowed to open, but there will be a one week delay and then a staggered return for secondary school age pupils and those in colleges. University students will also be prioritised based on their learning needs and will be offered two rapid tests upon their return.
Councillor Mrs Patricia Bradwell, executive councillor for children’s services, said: “We are aware of the national dispute between the school unions and the DfE over whether schools should remain open during this time when the new Covid variant is escalating transmissions of the virus.
“School infection figures in Lincolnshire are well below the national average at around 1% and we want schools, where it is safe and risk assessed, to keep open for face-to-face teaching. It’s better for children’s education that they are in school if possible.
“We understand this might be difficult for some schools and where this is not possible – some schools for example won’t have enough staff available due to shielding for COVID reasons – remote teaching will be put in place.
“We are continuing to support schools with health and safety advice to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all children and staff.”
Meanwhile, the National Education Union had already called on all primary schools to move to remote learning for the first two weeks of January, except to vulnerable children and children of key workers.
Chris Thompson, president of the Lincolnshire branch of the NEU, told The Lincolnite: “The union believes that government insistence that schools remain open is reckless.
“Schools may be safe for students, only because the students are very unlikely to develop severe symptoms, but they are unsafe because they provide an important vector for transmission to the community and to all staff within schools.
“Given the very late notice, some schools having inset days, and the large number of small primary schools in Lincolnshire I believe there are very few schools affected.
“Many headteachers would not have known how many teachers would not be in school today, and would not have had the opportunity to contact parents, so as a matter of practicality they remained open.
“I understand the headteacher’s unions and other unions within schools are supportive of our stance. As a consequence I believe that in Lincolnshire an increasing number of schools will go to online learning.”
He added that the union has asked members to use their rights to “withdraw their labour from an unsafe work environment”, but that teachers have not been asked to strike.