'Schools want to keep children in the classroom,' says education boss

Alex Burghart, a junior education minister, has said the government was committed to ensuring schools open in January

Norfolk schools have pledged to do everything in their power to remain open. - Credit: PA

Norfolk's education chiefs have pledged to do everything possible to remain open despite the fast spreading Omicron variant.

Following a meeting of over 200 headteachers and education workers on the new year bank holiday, schools agreed to carry out daily risk assessments to allow them to make whatever adjustments are necessary in order to stay open. It is understood schools have been asked to use a covid-risk matrix to help them assess when new measures may be needed.

Measures include children and young people aged seven and above being required to wear face masks in classes and communal areas until at least January 26, temporary working from home when necessary and alterations to lessons themselves.

Schools also say pupils may be taught by different teachers in the event of staff shortages.

Secondary schools and academies will also be arranging for testing of students before returning to school this week.

Chris Snudden, director of learning and inclusion at Norfolk County Council, said: “There was majority agreement that what teachers in Norfolk want is for schools to be open and for children to be learning in the classroom with their friends, taught by their usual teachers and support staff.

“And there was a real determination to do all we can to fight for this to happen. We completely understand how difficult disruptions are for children and their families when their school, year group, or class closes for any length of time.

“Parents should expect there may be changes to the normal routine in the next few weeks.

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“Please be understanding and be reassured your school will be doing everything possible to keep any disruption to an absolute minimum.”

Mrs Snudden said changes and disruptions would change from school to school depending on staff numbers and risk assessments.

Councillor John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We continue to do all we can to offer schools support and guidance at this particularly difficult time when week-on-week we are facing large increases in Covid infection rates.

“I am extremely impressed at how schools have responded throughout the pandemic and I have no doubt that school leaders and staff will continue to do all they can to keep their schools open, wherever possible.”

The council also urged parents, carers and pupils over 12 to book their booster jab.