PARENTS have today blasted the "confusing" rules over schools reopening with some towns "split in two".
It comes after it was announced yesterday millions of schoolkids in the worst-hit Covid areas will stay home for at least an extra two weeks after the Christmas holidays.
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Around one million primary kids in these areas will be forced to learn from home for at least two weeks – with no end date in sight.
It is thought 15 per cent of the total primaries across the country will stay shut, as Education Secretary Gavin Williams refused to apologise for the chaos today.
One baffled parent told the Sun Online her children's school in New Malden, Kingston, is open, but one less than a mile away in another borough is shut.
Bilal Ahmed dubbed it "utterly ridiculous", adding: "It's scary and unsafe for everyone in the school community."
How clear have you found the announcement? Is your area split with different rules? Get in touch at [email protected]
The confused mum will have to send two of her children to school, while the other stays at home for online learning as his is shut.
She said: "[It's] exasperating really and the juggling will just have to be done.
"On parents, they are amazed and disgusted in equal measure. Its utterly ridiculous.
"School can’t currently guarantee Covid safety for themselves let alone kids and parents and the wider school support staff like dinner ladies, etc."
Another person in the same area said she felt "rage" at the decision making, leaving her kids able to go to school 900m from a closed zone.
Another baffled parent wrote on Twitter: "Still no idea what I am meant to be doing on Monday."
It came as:
- Another 20 million people woke up in Tier 4 today as three quarters of England was shoved into the highest level of restrictions
- A Sage expert said England will probably be in a full lockdown by the end of January – but Gavin Williamson ruled out national action
- Boris said the Tiers system would likely last until April – but may be moved up if the vaccine rollout goes well
- Deaths reached nearly 1,000 yesterday – with 50,000 new cases
And one added: "Is it just me or was the way the rules on closures and openings of schools was presented a little bit confusing?"
A parent told the MailOnline: "The school at one end of the street I live in will be closed while the school at the other end is open."
And another fumed that their area is now "split in two" with "schools on one side of the road closed, the other side open".
Thousands of schools in 49 hardest-hit Covid areas will remain closed for in=person teaching due to spiralling cases – except for vulnerable kids and children of key workers.
Many parents were left scrabbling around to find the list and see if their kids would be back at school or not – with some furious at the differences in their local area.
Parents in London boroughs near spots which have been shut down raged on social media about their children's schools remaining open, while being so close to hotspots.
One person blasted: "How can they shut schools in Croydon, Merton, Southwark, Sutton and Wandsworth but not Lambeth which seems to have higher rates than some of other boroughs which are shutting schools.
"Half my son's school in Lambeth walk the 5 mins it takes from Merton and Croydon to get there?"
Another said: "Why is Kingston Upon Thames (Surbiton) keeping their primary schools open whilst all the neighbouring boroughs are closing their gates?"
Liz Keeble, headteacher of a primary school in Basildon, Essex, said she learned from the television on Wednesday afternoon that her school would not reopen next week, before hearing from her bosses.
She told BBC Breakfast today: "We have to kind of plan for the worst and hope for the best really. "
London council leaders criticised the Government's list of areas where primary schools will not open to pupils next week as having "no logic".
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was "urgently seeking clarification as to why schools in some London boroughs have been chosen to stay open" while others "just down the road won't".
Other critics included Danny Thorpe, leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, threatened with legal action by the Government earlier this month after issuing advice to schools to move to online learning for the last few days of term.
Expected return dates for schools
Most primary schools: Open on January 4 as planned
Key exam years: return on January 11 as planned
Secondary schools: Delayed until January 18 (due to go back on January 11)
Covid hotspots: all primary and schools stay shut except for key workers and vulnerable kids. No timetable, but likely to be beyond January 18
Mr Thorpe said there was "no logic to how this list was brought together" as Greenwich was not on the list of schools which had to close.
He raged: “Kensington and Chelsea has one of the lowest infection rates for the whole of the capital, yet their children and young people are being afforded the extra protection that apparently Royal Greenwich students don’t need.
“While we are very glad that they will benefit from these extra precautions, we can only speculate why this borough was included, yet with an infection rate more than 200 cases higher per 100,000, Royal Greenwich was not.”
Redbridge was also left off the list, but later added with MP Wes Streeting saying last night: "We have a situation where lists are being updated only minutes after publication.
"This is an utter shambles. I’m so sorry to parents and staff affected by Government incompetence."
Islington schools have been given the green light to open, with council leader Richard Watts saying he wanted "urgent clarification" on why they were exempt from the London-wide shutdown.
He said: "It is deeply frustrating that the Government has made this announcement at the last minute, just days before the start of term, weeks after it was clear coronavirus cases were surging in London."
Mr Williamson batted away criticism and said today he is "absolutely confident" secondary schools will be able to run a mass testing regime with an extra week to prepare.
He told Sky News: "In terms of secondary year groups, the reason that we have moved that back is so we give all schools, every single school, every single college that teaches secondary-age pupils the opportunity to roll out a mass testing regime, making sure we root out this coronavirus."
Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow and chairmen of the Education Select Committee, called for teachers to be made a priority for vaccinations against Covid-19 so schools can stay open.
He expressed concerns over a potential "epidemic of educational poverty" as school openings are delayed.
Yesterday afternoon he declared would do "everything" to keep children in school, and the majority of primary schools will reopen on Monday, January 4.
But, in nearly 50 Tier 4 areas where infection rates are highest, ALL schools will have to stay closed, including primaries.
That includes most of London, Essex, Kent, and a handful of areas in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and East Sussex – but key workers and vulnerable pupils can still attend.
These will stay closed until at least January 18 – but the situation will be reviewed every two weeks.
Secondary schools in the hotspot areas will stay closed for at least two weeks until January 18 – along with schools in the rest of the country.
The data will be reviewed before then and a decision made whether to get schools back.
But students set to sit GCSEs and A-levels will return on January 11 as planned – and any January exams will go ahead.
Boris Johnson told the nation last night at an emergency press conference: "I am afraid the start of the new term will be delayed until at least January 18, when the latest data on those infection rates will be reviewed.
Early years like nurseries will remain open nationally, as will alternative provision and special schools.
Students going back to university should stay home if they can – and only those who need to attend for practical learning to go back.
They should get two coronavirus tests before they do. The plans will be reviewed every two weeks – with no end date in sight for when they may be allowed to open.
The first starter packs of up to 1,000 test kits will only arrive at all secondary schools and colleges on 04 January – meaning schools face weeks of delays before being able to test everyone.
1,500 military personnel are on hand to help with the tests.
Full list of areas where primary schools will stay closed until further notice
- Secondary school kids' return date is already pushed back two weeks – any schools in the below areas will be reviewed beforehand to see if they can open
- Areas with primary schools which will stay closed too are:
- Barking and Dagenham
- Hammersmith and Fulham
- Kensington and Chelsea
- Tower Hamlets
- Waltham Forest
- Epping Forest
- Castle Point
- Southend on Sea
- Tonbridge and Malling
- Tunbridge Wells
- Milton Keynes
- Three Rivers
Matt Hancock has now plunged three-quarters of England into Tier 4 – meaning millions of kids are set to miss out on yet more classroom time because of the killer pandemic – and will have to learn at home.
The Health Secretary told MPs all of the North East of England, the South West and most of the Midlands would be thrown into Tier 4.
The announcement means that all of England is living under Tier 3 or Tier 4 lockdown – apart from 2,000 people living on the Isles of Scilly.
Teaching unions called yesterday’s U-turn a “shambles”.
Paul Whiteman, of the National Association of Headteachers, said: “This is another last-minute mess which could so easily have been avoided if the Government had listened to school leaders.”
Meanwhile MPs’ return to Parliament has been delayed until January 11, angering many backbenchers.
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