BRIGHTON and Hove primary schools in Sussex are staying closed today after the city council held an emergency meeting and ordered all primaries to move to online learning, in defiance of the Tory government.
Last Friday, Tory Education Secretary Williamson bowed to pressure from medical experts and teachers unions and announced that London primary schools should remain closed for the first two weeks of the Spring Term, reopening on Monday 18th January.
But he insisted that the rest of the country’s primary schools should reopen today as planned.
However, Brighton and Hove Councillor Hannah Clare, Chair of the Children, Young People and Skills Committee said on Saturday: ‘We need to keep children, school staff and the wider community as safe as possible.
‘Therefore, Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty as leader of the council, has today written to Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education to ask him to include primary schools in Brighton & Hove in the list of schools that have moved to remote learning.’
Several other councils have written to the education secretary asking for their schools to be added to the ‘contingency framework’ of schools not expected to open today, including Cumbria County Council and Kent County Council.
Birmingham City Council Leader Councillor Ian Ward wrote to Williamson, urging him to ‘reconsider your position around face to face learning in Birmingham and other areas subject to tier 4 restrictions, as you did yesterday for London.’
Ward insisted: ‘We will support any Birmingham school leader who assesses that it is not safe to open their school following a risk assessment, particularly where there is a shortage of available staff.’
Despite the demands to move the country’s schools to online learning, Prime Minister Johnson claimed to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday morning that there is ‘no doubt in my mind that schools are safe,’ describing the closures in London as ‘exceptional’.
Johnson claimed that the risk to children is ‘very, very low’ and the benefit of education is ‘so huge’.
Asked whether exams should be cancelled, Johnson did not answer directly but said ‘we’ve got to be realistic’.
He said stronger measures may be required in parts of the country in coming weeks and this includes the possibility of keeping schools closed, although this is not ‘something we want to do’.
He urged parents to send their children to school on Monday if they are open in their area, adding he had ‘no doubt’ schools are safe.
Secondary schools are staggering their return, with pupils taking exams in 2021 starting on 11 January and other year groups returning on 18 January.