Three schools in Totton and Lymington stay closed amid unions' coronavirus safety warning
THREE schools which were due to reopen today (Monday) have told parents not to send their children in after unions warned it was not safe for staff to teach.
The executive headteacher of federation infant schools Lydlynch and Hazel Wood in Totton, Jane Phillips, emailed parents on Sunday evening to announce the “difficult” decision.
She wrote: “In light of an evolving situation regarding scientific and union advice [and] unknown staffing levels, we have made the difficult decision to close initially on Monday 4th January in order to review staffing levels, safety measures and teaching options for our children and community.”
Apologising for the lateness of the decision, she added: “These events have gathered pace over the last two days and we have to act. The majority of staff have been advised by their unions that there is not enough clear evidence around the safety of opening schools at the moment, and I realise that this is extremely short notice and may cause inconvenience for some of you. For this I am truly sorry but I hope you can understand the difficulties we are facing.”
From tomorrow, the schools will reopen to vulnerable children and those who parents are critical workers, she added. All other children will have access to remote learning.
In Lymington, Our Lady and St Joseph Catholic Primary School announced in a letter to parents that it would also close temporarily.
Executive headteacher Gerida Montague said on Sunday: “The National Education Union (NEU) for teachers held a meeting this morning at 11am and the headteacher’s union along with another are taking legal action against the government in order to gain access to further scientific facts regarding the new variant of Covid-19 and its impact on school communities.”
She also apologised for the lateness of the decision and wrote: “I will seek to find a solution that mitigates the risk and allows for our children to come into school in some form and be taught face to face.
“This may well be a ‘blended solution’, with some zoom ‘live teaching’ and some in-school learning. I will review this alongside advice from our local authority, government, unions and scientific advisors.
All children not in school will be expected to carry out learning via Zoom, she added, which will start on Tuesday.
Leader of Hampshire County Council, Cllr Keith Mans, announced he would be contacting the Secretary of State for Education to stress the concerns of parents and teachers in relation to Covid-19 measures.
Issuing a statement on Sunday, he said he was aware that some parents were worried about whether to send their children back to primary school and could “fully understand” the anxieties.
He said: “The competing and growing concerns about whether to open or close schools are clearly evident and the need to strike a balance between the physical and mental well-being of pupils when they do not attend school and the continued spread of the virus. We understand the government’s exceptionally difficult decisions in this regard – which are based on wider ranges of information than these increasing rates.
“Hampshire’s early years providers and countywide family of schools are continuing to work hard to keep Hampshire’s pupils, teachers and school staff safe, by implementing appropriate measures to help prevent the spread of infections when they are in school.”
He added: “We are extremely grateful for all the work that is being undertaken and I am aware that many staff will have worked over the Christmas period to ensure that measures remain in place and adhere to the latest national guidance.”