politics

All 49 Covid hotspots where primary schools will shut to most pupils


Large swathes of London and the Home Counties are among the coronavirus hotspots in England where primary schools will remain closed to most pupils following the end of the festive break next week.

There are 49 places on the list, including 22 London boroughs, and parts of Essex, Kent, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and East Sussex. Scroll down for a full list.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that primaries in a “small number of areas” where infection rates are the highest will not reopen for face-to-face teaching to all students as planned.

He said only vulnerable children and children of key workers will receive face-to-face teaching in the first week of term from Monday.

His announcement left anxious parents scrambling to find out if their children were affected, but the list wasn’t immediately available online, drawing fresh criticism of the Government’s handling of the crisis.

The list was finally published about 30 minutes after Mr Williamson’s announcement.

What do you think of the Government’s back-to-school U-turn? Let us know in the comments section below.



Children are seen inside a classroom at a primary school earlier this year

A decision on whether shut schools should reopen “will obviously be guided by the public health advice,” Mr Williamson said.

All pupils in exam years will return to secondary schools in England from January 11 while the rest of secondary and college students will go back full-time on January 18, Mr Williamson said in a U-turn on the planned reopening.

The delay is needed to enable the roll out of mass Covid-19 testing, the Education Secretary said.

It came as millions more people in England will be moved to Tier 4 – the toughest Covid-19 restrictions – as a mutant strain of the virus spreads out of control and puts overwhelming pressure on the NHS.

Three quarters of England’s population will be in Tier 4 from 12.01am on Thursday (December 31), covering 44 million people.

Where are primary schools staying closed?

Primary schools in the following areas will not reopen for face-to-face teaching to all students as planned.

They will be open only to vulnerable children and children of key workers.

London

  • Barking and Dagenham
  • Barnet
  • Bexley
  • Brent
  • Bromley
  • Croydon
  • Ealing
  • Enfield
  • Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Havering
  • Hillingdon
  • Hounslow
  • Kensington and Chelsea
  • Merton
  • Newham
  • Richmond upon Thames
  • Southwark
  • Sutton
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Waltham Forest
  • Wandsworth
  • Westminster

Essex

  • Brentwood
  • Epping Forest
  • Castle Point
  • Basildon
  • Rochford
  • Harlow
  • Chelmsford
  • Braintree
  • Maldon
  • Southend on Sea
  • Thurrock

Kent

  • Dartford
  • Gravesham
  • Sevenoaks
  • Medway
  • Ashford
  • Maidstone
  • Tonbridge and Malling
  • Tunbridge Wells
  • Swale

East Sussex

Buckinghamshire

Hertfordshire

  • Watford
  • Broxbourne
  • Hertsmere
  • Three Rivers

What did the Education Secretary announce?

Primary schools in a “small number of areas” of England where Covid-19 infection rates are the highest will not reopen for face-to-face teaching to all pupils as planned next week, Mr Williamson said.

He said only vulnerable children and children of key workers will receive face-to-face teaching in the first week of term.

All pupils in exam years will return to secondary schools in England from January 11 while the rest of secondary and college students will go back full-time on January 18, Mr Williamson said in a U-turn on the planned reopening.

He told the Commons it was a “last resort” that some schools needed to close where infection rates are highest.

He added: “We’ll be opening the majority of primary schools as planned on Monday, January 4. We know how vitally important it is for younger children to be in school for their education, wellbeing and wider development.

“In a small number of areas where the infection rates are highest we will implement our existing contingency framework such as only vulnerable children and children of critical workers will attend face to face.

“We will publish this list of areas today on the GOV.UK website. I’d like to emphasise that this is being used only as a last resort. This is not all Tier 4 areas and that the overwhelming majority of primary schools will open as planned on Monday.”

Laying out the plans for the return of pupils to secondary schools after the Christmas break, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “In secondary schools all vulnerable children and children of critical workers will go back next week across England as originally planned, but we will ask exam year pupils in secondary to learn remotely during the first week of term and return to the classroom from January 11.

“The remaining secondary school pupils – non-exam groups – will go back a week later, that is from January 18.”

However, Mr Johnson suggested these plans could change again depending on rates of infection and added: “I want to stress that depending on the spread of the disease it may be necessary to take further action in their cases as well in the worst affected areas.”

What did the critics say?

Immediately following the announcement, shadow minister for schools Wes Streeting tweeted: “The first thing that parents will be doing following this statement is looking online to see if their schools are open.

“The list isn’t yet online. For crying out loud.”

Shadow further education and universities minister Emma Hardy tweeted: “Why announce in parliament that some schools will not open as ‘normal’ and fail to provide a list on which schools are impacted! What a total shambles.”



A map showing the tier restrictions in England as of December 31
Almost all of England will be in Tiers 3 and 4 from Thursday


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Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said she was “astonished” at Mr Williamson’s announcement.

Dr Bousted added the NEU does not believe schools are “safe enough” for staff to work in.

She said: “With warnings from eminent scientists of an ‘imminent catastrophe’ unless the whole of the UK is locked down, and with more cases in hospitals than ever before and our NHS facing an enormous crisis, the Secretary of State is sending the majority of primary pupils and staff back on Monday to working environments which aren’t Covid secure.

“The Government has not, despite being repeatedly asked, published the scientific guidance on the risks involved in school and college reopening. This information is desperately needed – particularly as the new variants of the virus are 50% more transmissible.

“The Government in Scotland will not reopen schools till 18 January at the earliest. The Government in Westminster should have done that at least.

“A longer period of online working for all primary, secondary and college students could suppress virus levels and buy time both for the roll-out of the vaccine and to put in place measures that can keep schools safer.

“Uniquely school and college staff are being required to work in overcrowded buildings, with no effective social distancing, no PPE and inadequate ventilation.”





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