Schools given option to end term one day early
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Some Suffolk schools have already announced they will be taking advantage of a government offer to end the term one day early next week.
Schools will be allowed to finish term on Thursday next week rather than on Friday - but there may be one less scheduled inset day in 2021 if they decide to do this.
Schools Standards Minister Nick Gibb told MPs that the government wants there to be a "clear six days" ahead of Christmas Eve so teachers and heads do not have to "engage with track and trace issues" throughout the festive break.
In its Covid-19 Winter Plan last month, the government had told schools in England not to change their Christmas holidays or close early this term.
But addressing the virtual Education Select Committee, Mr Gibb said: "We are about to announce that inset days can be used on Friday December 18, even if an inset day had not been originally scheduled for that day."
He added: "We want there to be a clear six days so that, by the time we reach Christmas Eve, staff can have a proper break without having to engage in the track and trace issues."
Some of the county's schools have already announced they would be taking advantage of the extra day off - including Chantry Academy in Ipswich.
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Speaking to MPs on Tuesday, Mr Gibb said the Government wants schools to stay open until the end of term as it is the "best place for young people for their education development" and for their mental health.
But he added: "We want to make sure that they (school staff) can have a proper break over Christmas. We know they've been under huge stress.
"I don't think some of these senior leadership teams of schools have had a break at all since the pandemic began."
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and former headteacher at King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, said: "We recognise the government has made a small concession, but we had hoped it would allow more flexibility than has been granted.
"A single day is better than nothing, but it still means that school and college leaders will have to continue contact tracing in the event of positive cases through to Wednesday, December 23.
"It also leaves them responsible, at very short notice, for informing families that they will need to self-isolate over the Christmas period.
"It is frustrating also that the Government has taken so long to agree this decision as there is so little time left for schools to make the necessary arrangements."