PARENTS face chaos and confusion today as primary schools across the country stay shut in defiance of Government orders.
Boris Johnson yesterday urged parents to send kids back to school as he has “no doubt” they are safe.
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But in a screeching u-turn last night, many schools and councils advised parents to keep kids at home.
Council leaders in Wolverhampton, Norfolk, Slough, Manchester, County Durham, Lancashire, Birmingham and Gateshead said they would support the decision of head teachers who do not think it is safe for the school to open.
And parents up and down the country were sent last minute letters advising them of closures last night.
One letter to parents from Anlaby school in Hull, read: "When we have made arrangements we will let you know exactly what is happening as soon as we can.
"It may be wise to start thinking about alternative arrangements for child care and how your children will engage in online learning if we have to close."
One East Yorkshire mum, who did not wish to be named, said she finds it "staggering" that her child's school will not be opening.
She told Hull live: "I find it staggering how the school is choosing not to take government advice.
"I take my advice from the government scientists who are saying it’s safe for children to return to school and so should the school."
The changes from schools mean thousands will be plunged into difficulty this week as parents scramble to find last minute childcare.
Others will be forced to home-school their kids as teachers send digital materials home.
But education unions have said staff are at "serious risk" of infection by returning to schools and called on the Prime Minister to meet to discuss safety.
In a joint statement, signed by GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, Unison and Unite, said: "The Government's chaotic handling of the opening of schools has caused confusion for teachers, school staff and parents alike.
"Bringing all pupils back into classrooms while the rate of infection is so high is exposing education sector workers to serious risk of ill-health and could fuel the pandemic.
"Unions have called for a pause in the reopening of schools for anyone other than vulnerable children and children of key workers, and a move to remote learning for all while Covid-secure working arrangements are reviewed."
There is clear public health advice behind the position that we have taken and that is what people should follow because, of course, education is very important as well, especially for people's long-term health.
All of London's primary schools and those in some surrounding areas will not reopen until January 18 due to the fast-spreading variant of Covid-19, with students elsewhere expected to return to classrooms on Monday.
Councils in Cumbria and Kent have urged the Government to allow schools to remain closed in other areas, while teaching unions are calling for all schools to switch to remote learning for a brief period.
And General secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) Dr Mary Bousted has said schools should stay closed for two weeks to "break the chain" of transmission and prevent the NHS becoming "overwhelmed".
Primary school pupils in Thanet, Canterbury, Dover and Folkestone and Hythe are expected to return on Monday while the other districts in Kent will learn remotely for the first two weeks of term.
Similarly, Essex County Council said it was seeking "urgent clarity" from the Government on the position of reopening schools in north Essex amid rising infection rates.
It said that primary schools in Colchester, Tendring and Uttlesford – the only districts in Essex where schools were due to reopen – would move to remote learning from Tuesday.
Brighton and Hove City Council has advised primary schools in the Tier 4 area not to return in person, except for vulnerable children and those of key workers, until January 18.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said it was "very hard to tell" how many schools would be open for the start of the term.
"Some schools in Tier 4 areas will be open for vulnerable pupils and key worker families and will be providing remote learning for others, yet in other areas also in Tier 4, all pupils will be admitted," he said.
"That's a confusing picture for school leaders and families alike."
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said people should follow the public health advice regarding the reopening of schools, and suggested teachers are no more at risk of catching coronavirus than the rest of the population.
He told Sky News: "It is also clear that the proportion of teachers who catch coronavirus is no higher than the rest of the population.
"So there is clear public health advice behind the position that we have taken and that is what people should follow because, of course, education is very important as well, especially for people's long-term health."
It comes after the Prime Minister yesterday urged parents to send kids back to school.
Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, he told parents: “Look at where your area is. Overwhelmingly you’ll be in a part of the country where primary schools tomorrow will be open.”
He added: “I understand people’s frustrations. I understand people’s anxieties. But there is no doubt in my mind that schools are safe and that education is a priority.”
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