Schools WON'T break up early for Christmas amid Omicron variant fears, Downing St says

SCHOOLS will NOT break up early for Christmas to slash the spread of the Omicron variant, Downing St said today.

Boris Johnson's official spokesman dismissed calls from union leaders to send kids home ahead of schedule – stressing their education was "vital".


Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi this morning said classrooms were the "best place" for pupils to be.

The Minister said that closing schools should be the "last possible option" and balked at suggestion she bring back hated classroom bubbles.

The PM's spokesman confirmed that closing schools early was "not something we are looking to do.

"Education is vital and we've seen how disruptive the restrictions can be. We've always taken steps to keep schools open until we've absolutely no other choice." 

The Department for Education last night released new guidance for schools to follow for millions of teachers and kids.

It "strongly advises" pupils, staff and visitors to wear masks in "communal areas" like corridors – but not yet classrooms.

🔵 Read our Omicron variant live blog for the latest news

Mr Zahawi told ITV's This Morning: "Keep schools open: do all the things necessary, like face masks in communal areas… to protect the education in the classroom.

"Face masks are not a panacea… these are all interventions that just help you slow the virus… from accelerating too quickly.

"Just to give the scientists a bit more time, a bit more headroom to actually decide what do we need to do next."

Kids are already being sent home from classrooms and learning moved back online due to spiralling case numbers.

St Mary's Church of England Primary in Hereford and Darwen Aldridge Enterprise Studio in Lancashire have shut for at least a week, with other schools in Buckinghamshire, Middlesborough and West Sussex all closing for at least a day.

In an email to headteachers, the DfE said testing students on their return to the classroom in January "will help reduce transmission after a period of social mixing" over the holidays.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has said it is not reasonable for the authority to impose such a considerable public health task on schools "with minimal support".

New Covid measures for schools

FACE MASKS

Pupils, teachers and visitors are all advised to wear masks in communal areas such as common rooms and corridors – but not classrooms.

While it's only "strongly" advised and not a legal requirement, it goes further than the national compulsion to wear face coverings in shops.

Kids in Year 7 and above should still put on masks on the school bus as has been the advice for some weeks.

ISOLATION

While the vast majority of pupils currently don't have to isolate if they come into contact with an infected person, under tomorrow's new rules they might have to.

At the moment any Covid contact who is double-vaxxed or under-18 doesn't have to quarantine, exempting most school kids.

But anyone who comes into contact with a case of Omicron will now have to stay at home for 10 days regardless of their jab status.

SCHOOL TRIPS

Guidance from the Department for Education released last night urged teachers to reconsider the need for trips abroad.

All arrivals coming back into the UK have to isolate until their day two PCR test comes back negative.

The advice says: "Schools, out of school settings and colleges will want to consider whether to go ahead with planned international educational visits at this time, recognising the risk of disruption to education resulting from the need to isolate and test on arrival back into the UK."

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