The London Borough of Brent has been included in a government list of Covid 'hot spots' where schools will not open to the majority of pupils in the first two weeks of January. Primary schools will be open only to the children of key workers and vulnerable workers. Other children will receive on-line learning. The guidance is available HERE and will be revised on January 18th.
Cllr Thomas Stephens, Lead Member for Education, Business, Employment and Skills said:
Following the Government’s announcement about the reopening of schools for the 2021 spring term, I would like to reassure parents that we are working closely to support all our schools and settings as they welcome children back over the next few weeks.
The decision to delay face to face teaching was made by the national Government, and neither the schools nor the council were consulted before these arrangements were put in place.
We appreciate that the phased opening may cause some disruption to families, but the health and safety of our children and residents is of paramount importance. We are pressing the Government for firm commitments on mass testing, priority vaccination for school staff and support for the most vulnerable families.
The guidance makes it clear the schools should consult with the DfE before implementing it.
This is what the guidance says about primary schools:
Primary schools should only allow children of critical workers and those defined as vulnerable to attend.
Children of critical workers: Where a critical worker parent or carer notifies a school that their child requires full-time on-site provision, the school should make this available.
Vulnerable children: Vulnerable children are expected to attend full-time on-site provision where it is appropriate for them to do so. This should remain a priority for primary educational providers and local authorities. If they do not attend and it is not a previously agreed leave of absence, schools should:
•work together with the local authority and social worker (where applicable) to follow up with the parent or carer to explore the reason for absence, discussing their concerns using supporting guidance, and whether any adjustments could be made to encourage attendance, considering the child’s circumstances and their best interests
•work together with the local authority and social worker (where applicable) and other relevant partners to encourage the child to attend educational provision, particularly where the social worker agrees that the child’s attendance would be appropriate.
Where schools grant a leave of absence to a vulnerable child they should still speak to parents and carers, and social workers (where applicable) to explore the reasons for this and any concerns raised.
The discussions should focus on the welfare of the child and ensuring that the child is able to access appropriate education and support while they are at home.
High quality remote education should be provided for all other pupils.
Attendance recording Vulnerable children: As vulnerable children are still expected to attend school full-time they should not be marked as Code X if they are not in school (except if they are shielding, self-isolating or quarantining).
Schools should encourage vulnerable children to attend but if the parent of a vulnerable child wishes for their child to be absent from school, the parent should let the school know that the pupil will not be attending.
The Department for Education expects schools to grant such applications for leave given the exceptional circumstances. This should be recorded as code C (leave of absence authorised by the school) unless another authorised absence code is more applicable.
Children of critical workers: As with vulnerable children, critical worker parents and carers should let schools know if their child will not be attending and, if not, schools should grant a leave of absence (code C) given the exceptional circumstances.
Pupils who are not expected to be in school: All pupils who are not expected to be in school should be marked as Code X. They are not attending because they are following public health advice.
The full list of areas can be found HERE
Yesterday a zoom meeting of NEU London activists quickly reached its limit of 500 attendees indicating how seriously education staff see the present crisis. There was particular concern over what appears to be a directive that nurseries and special schools should open next week despite the decision to delay the opening of primary schools in most London boroughs. The union will be discussing what action to take to maintain the safety of chidlren and staff in these circumstances.
London boroughs excluded from the list of London boroughs reopening late were seeking explanations from the Secretary of State. These include our neighbouring boroughs of Harrow and Camden. On social media it was pointed out that many children and young people cross borough boundaries to attend school or college.
Harrow MP Gareth Thomas write to Schools Minister Nick Gibb MP:
Cllr Ketan Sheth, Chair of Brent Comunity and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee summed up the reaction of many on Twitter:
It is expected that Brent Children and Families will issue guidance to schools before the start of term.