Seven Greater Manchester schools will be closing a week early for Christmas to prevent families from having to isolate over the festive period.
Amid growing concerns over the number of families that could be forced to isolate because of positive cases, Focus Trust says all 15 of its schools – seven of which are in our region – will close on December 11, instead of the original planned date of December 18.
Families were initially told that during the week, pupils would be be expected to work from home – with teachers offering paper-based and online work for them to complete – but it will now be classed as a normal holiday.
Unlike the lockdown earlier this year, they will not be open to children of key workers or vulnerable youngsters.
The schools closing a week early include:
- Manor Green Primary Academy, Denton, Tameside
- Old Trafford Community Academy, Trafford
- Freehold Community Primary, Oldham
- Lyndhurst Primary, Oldham
- Coppice Primary Academy, Oldham
- Roundthorn Primary Academy, Oldham
- Deeplish Primary Academy, Rochdale
Focus Trust’s chief executive Helen Rowland said: “We recognise the short notice may be an issue for some families but we hope that by taking the proactive and practical approach of extending the break, we can ensure that no one is forced to self-isolate over the holiday because of someone they have come into contact with at school.
“The time will be made up later in the school year when it is safe and practical to do so and families will be informed of the new dates as soon as possible.’’
One single mum, whose children attend Manor Green Academy, told the M.E.N’s Manchester Family she doesn’t know how she will manage the extra week off.
She works shifts that she’s unable to get out of and will have to find £200 for childcare. Having initially been told that work would be set for children, she said they would have struggled to get anything done.
“I think it’s a ridiculous reason, what does one week matter,” she said. “Lockdown will most probably be extended over the Christmas period anyway.
“Also how would I be able to log my children on and teach them when I am at work? They would go down as absent because I physically can’t do it with them.”
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While the seven schools are Trust rather than council-run, it’s understood at least one local authority in Greater Manchester is considering extending the festive break by a week, to give pupils three weeks off instead of two.
Despite schools adopting numerous safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus, they’re facing growing disruption – not least to staffing numbers.
Mrs Rowland said: “Our priority is always to safeguard the mental and physical health and wellbeing of our children and our staff, and every decision we make is with their best interests, and those of our local communities in mind.
“Since our schools reopened to all pupils in September, we have followed the government guidelines which stipulate that bubble groups should isolate for a period of two weeks if exposed to, and at risk of spreading, the virus.
“Despite our robust Covid secure arrangements and close working with HSE/Public Health, since September, we’ve had to close bubbles in 13 of our 15 schools, meaning that 1,740 children, and 375 staff have had to self-isolate – that’s 28% of our children and 38% of our staff.
“Just this week we had one of our one form entry schools, with no previous cases, who now have 90 children and 10 staff isolating for two weeks – almost half the school.”
Before the plans to have children remote learning were scrapped, in a letter to parents, Manor Green headteacher Tracey Thornton explained how the week would operate.
She said: “Learning will be provided remotely. Teachers have already started planning a combination of online and paper-based learning activities for that week.
“The expectation is that all children engage. Teachers will be taking daily registers and we will contact you as we would normally if your child is absent from the online learning.
“Please communicate with your child’s class teacher if they are unable to attend for any reason.”
Food hampers will be issued to those who would normally benefit from free school meals