Parents won't know if schools will reopen in January until after Christmas as ministers delay decision
PARENTS won't know if schools will reopen in January until after Christmas.
It's been reported the decision won't be made until later in the holidays after a meeting was postponed.
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Scientists and Government sources have also said more needs to be known about the new strains of Covid which are causing a widespread shutdown.
There are fears younger people could spread the mutated variant more quickly, and it is this which could lead to schools staying shut until February.
The Daily Mail reports a meeting with Boris Johnson and the Department for Education was postponed until after Christmas.
Professor Neil Ferguson told the Commons Science and Technology Committee the new strain of coronavirus is "everywhere now".
He said: "Schools are now shut, we are in a near-lockdown situation across the country. Contact rates are lower over Christmas."
Millions of people are being plunged into Tier 4 restrictions on Boxing Day over fears on the new strain.
As cases rose to more than 39,000 yesterday and the UK saw the highest number of daily deaths since April, ministers are concerned the variant could spread quicker when schools go back.
Experts have suggested kids could spread the disease faster, with several Government figures suggesting schools could remain closed throughout January.
Yesterday Dr Susan Hopkins said there is not yet any evidence the new strain of the virus is more transmissible in children.
Dr Jenny Harries said: "There is perhaps an assumption that if children are at home, they won't transmit disease but we have to be really clear that that is the case.
"Schools are very controlled environments in many cases, and so we know what children are doing there.
"I think education is really important for children and we shouldn't jump to the conclusion that just because every child is in school, that that is a significant place for transmission."
At the moment the plan is for primary schools and secondary school exam years to return on January 4 with the rest of secondary pupils back on January 11.
Yesterday Communities Minister Robert Jenrick said schools would be open next month.
But the Home Secretary said earlier in the week pupils would "eventually" go back to school after a Government source revealed some schools could stay shut until February.
Despairing parents told of their fears at the prospect of their kids being stuck at home for another month.
Blended/online learning does NOT work if you have multiple kids of different ages. It does not work if parents are working full time.
Many on Mumsnet said they were "dreading" home schooling, while some told how the first lockdown and school closures "nearly broke" them.
One fumed: "Blended/online learning does NOT work if you have multiple kids of different ages. It does not work if parents are working full time."
And another said: "The guilt I felt over having my child infront of a screen for 10 hours a day was just unendurable.
"I don't know what the solution is really. I would be amazed if we don't have a second schools shutdown in January."
Scientists from the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group have said the new mutation might spread quicker in children than the original viral strain.
They suggested this could be why the virus rate increased in some areas despite the second lockdown – as kids were still in school.
Teaching unions have called for online classes for the two weeks after Christmas to give staff the chance to get vaccinated.
But the Campaign for Real Education said any school closure is "catastrophic".
Mass testing is set to be rolled out in schools in January, to try and keep a lid on Covid cases.
But Government sources told the Telegraph: "They are looking at staggering schools for longer, possibly for all of January.
"The focus mainly has been on secondary schools, but they are not there yet. The discussions are ongoing."
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