All north Essex primary schools to stay CLOSED for start of term

School uniform. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/monkeybusinessimages

School uniform. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/monkeybusinessimages - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Primary schools across north Essex will close and move to online learning this week as the county council seeks urgent clarity from the Government over rising Covid cases.

The move, backed by public health officials, affects schools in Colchester, Tendring and Uttlesford and brings the areas in line with other, more southerly districts of Essex already closing to pupils until mid-January.

On Sunday, Essex County Council announced it had written to all primary schools in these areas to tell them to move to remote learning on Tuesday, when most pupils were due to go back.

Secondary school pupils will remain at home this week as planned, with exam students due to return from January 11 and others from January 18.

Under rules drawn up by the Department for Education, schools can be included in a 'contingency framework' which means they operate remotely if there are high levels of infection locally and pressure on NHS services.

At the moment, primary schools in Tendring, Colchester and Uttlesford are not included in this framework.

If they were, it would allow primaries to move to remote learning until at least January 18, while opening only for the children of critical workers and vulnerable pupils.

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In a letter sent on Sunday to education secretary Gavin Williamson, ECC leader David Finch said:  “You will be aware that on the 30 December 2020 the Essex Resilience Forum Strategic Co-ordination Group declared a ‘major incident’ in respect of the health system in Essex.

Leader of Essex County Council Cllr David Finch. PIcture: PAUL STARR

Leader of Essex County Council, David Finch Picture: PAUL STARR - Credit: Paul Starr Photographer

“In addition, the latest Covid-19 case data indicates that over the past week:
• Across the district of Uttlesford, cases have increased by 55%
• Across the district of Tendring, case rates have increased by 28%
• Across the district of Colchester, case rates have increased by 23%

“As a result of the change in these two factors, I am seeking an urgent review of the position with respect of these three districts and to request that they are placed into the contingency framework with immediate effect.

“I would appreciate an urgent dialogue with ministers tomorrow (4 January 2021) in order that we can advise our primary schools and their parents on the outcome of this review.

"In the meantime, we have advised all primary schools within these three districts to move to remote education for the majority of pupils on Monday the 4th and Tuesday 5th January 2021, in order that this urgent review can take place.

The letter adds: “I appreciate that the implementation of the contingency framework is an absolute last resort action by your department, but as the data indicates, the chain of transmission across Essex continues to increase and we require all available support and assistance to break the chain and to bring this despicable virus under control.

"I would only make this request under these extremely challenging circumstances.”

It comes as a Suffolk primary school announced it would not be re-opening to pupils due to rising infection rates.

North Essex coronavirus infection rates have been rising recently with all areas above the England average.

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