Six primary schools across Swindon have shut their doors today as teaching unions raised concerns about rising coronavirus case rates.
Teaching unions have called for schools to shut, with some teachers invoking legal rights saying it is unsafe to come into work. However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed there was “no doubt” it was safe for children to return to classrooms.
Beechcroft Infants School – classes 7 and 8 will be closed until further notice. Class 9 will be closed on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but open on Thursday and Friday until further notice.
Grange Junior School has shut all classes, although remain open to vulnerable children or those whose parents are key workers. Parents should email firstname.lastname@example.org so staff can allocate places.
Interim principal Claire Arthur said: “Due to an unprecedented COVID-19 situation, significant numbers of school staff under the guidance of their trade union have taken the decision to invoke section 44 and 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, and are choosing to work from home.
“School senior leaders have worked incredibly hard all weekend to try and find a way in which we could safely staff our school allowing all children to return. We were unable to find an agreed solution. It is with a heavy heart that I must inform parents that I, along with the trust have no option but to only open the school for those children who are vulnerable or from key working families.”
For the same reason, Eldene Primary School is also closed today. Headteacher Heather Kellett told parents and carers that only vulnerable children and those of key workers should come to class.
She said: “All children who need to stay at home will have learning provided on the home learning area of our website, similar to that given last spring.
“I was in contact with personnel from the local authority yesterday evening and I have been instructed not make decisions about which children can attend until they respond later today.
“Therefore, unfortunately, I am unable to give you any further information at this point. Please do check your emails during the day for further updates about which children can attend school from Tuesday.
“I appreciate that this is very short notice, and do apologise for the inconvenience that this will cause you.”
Oakhurst Community Primary School will be shut to all pupils, except to children of key workers and vulnerable pupils. Headteacher Lizzie Christopher said in a letter to parents: “Please understand that this is a decision we have not made lightly, we understand the great strain that this puts on families but we equally want to keep each other as safe as possible.”
Shaw Ridge Primary School has announced an emergency closure on its website. More information will be issued to parents today.
Elsewhere, headteachers have written to parents explaining why they have decided to keep their schools open.
On December 31, Haydonleigh Primary School headteacher Frances Billinge wrote to parents to explain the decision to keep the school open. She wrote: “My staff essentially have no choice, we are public servants and have been instructed by the Government to attend the workplace. The risks to all of us remain and to this end I need everyone to support the following.”
Wanborough Primary School headteacher Andy Drury wrote to parents on Sunday, January 3, to inform them the school would be open as normal. He said: “I’ve not received any guidance from the Department for Education or Swindon Borough Council that the school is not safe for your children or staff. We will continue to do our very best to ensure the environment is as safe as it possibly can be.”
Update: Hazelwood Academy reopens tomorrow for all children.
Many schools are shut today for teacher training days, with lessons starting on Tuesday.