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Schools opening in the new year - our statement

Published January 03, 2021 1.55pm

Since the outbreak of the pandemic we have continuously worked with schools to prioritise the education of our children and young people, including establishing remote learning when necessary.

Given the confusion over Government communication and guidance to schools, we believe the Secretary of State must provide clear and consistent information to schools in tier 4 that includes a move to remote learning for all pupils (excluding vulnerable children and those of key workers) and a planned return to school on 18 January. 

In the absence of changes to Government guidance we are clear that any decision on school closure should be made by school leaders and their Governing Bodies based on individual risk assessments at local level. Risk assessments continue to be updated and need to take account of a range of factors including local infection rates, availability of staff as well as the school's physical environment and organisation. We will continue to support all of our schools based on established locally derived information along with national guidance and best practice. While our infection rates are currently lower than London we feel consistency is needed for all tier 4 areas.

Commitment to education

Our school leaders and staff have provided outstanding commitment over the last nine months to enable continuity of education as far as possible and a safe environment in which pupils can learn and staff can work. If school leaders believe that it is not safe to open their schools to all pupils due to their risk assessment we will support them in their decision.

I would like to thank all school staff for their continuing commitment to the education of our children and young people.  School leaders have been placed in an impossible position by the Secretary of State and national leadership from him is urgently needed.

Guidance for parents

We understand that this is a very difficult time for our parents, carers and school staff as well as all of our young people, but if we all work together we can help to reduce the infection rates in County Durham.

We would ask that you check your individual school's website or parentmail system for the latest information and any updates relating to closures.

Councillor Olwyn Gunn, Cabinet Member Children and Young People's Services, Durham County Council

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