Sheffield City Council advises primary schools to reopen – insisting they are ‘safe’ and ‘vital’ for children

Sheffield City Council has written to all primary and special schools advising them to reopen on Monday following the Christmas break.

By Michael Broomhead
Sunday, 3rd January 2021, 7:58 pm
Updated Sunday, 3rd January 2021, 8:10 pm

The letter, from Greg Fell, director of public health for the council, states that schools remaining open is vital for children’s educational and emotional well-being – and insists they are safe.

However, The Star has seen letters from Hillsborough Primary School and Birley Primary Academy saying they will return to online learning from Monday.

Greg Fell, director of public health for Sheffield City Council.

Birley Primary Academy’s letter states it will be open to ‘the most vulnerable’ youngsters and children of key workers.

Several councils in England have written to the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson asking for schools in their area to be told to stay shut – following closures in London amid growing concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

Mr Fell said: “We are writing to all schools to outline our advice which is that primary and special schools should open as usual from Monday.

“We strongly believe this is vital for the emotional and educational well-being of children.

“We recognise we have to balance educational provision and safety of staff and pupils and have given careful consideration to this in offering the advice we have.

“Sheffield remains, at this time, in Tier 3 restrictions.

“Our latest case data up to January 1 tells us we 175 positive Covid-19 cases per 100,000 which is considerably lower than those in the south which as of December 28 showed, in London, a rate of 762 positive Covid-19 cases per 100,000.

“We have also considered the new variant of the virus which is no doubt more transmissible.

“However, there isn’t clear evidence to support that it is more transmissible in children per nor that it is having a more significant impact on either children or adults.

“Having taken all of this into careful consideration, we believe that it is safe to allow primary and special schools to open.

“The public health team will continue to monitor and review the situation.”

Councillor Abtisam Mohamed, cabinet member for education and skills at the council, added: “Our first priority is the safety of our children and the hard-working and dedicated staff at our schools.

“These are the people who have worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic to ensure our children continue to receive an education.

“This is why we believe it is important for primary and special schools to open as normal.

“We have made this decision after looking at the evidence, following advice from professionals.

“We will rigorously continue to press all schools on their legal duty to update risk assessments and put in place any necessary measures needed.

“I understand the concerns that have been played out in the national media, but our priority is ensuring, where it is safe and sensible to do so, that children receive the education they need and deserve.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “Sheffield’s secondary schools are remaining closed to some year groups in order to enable them to put into place the school-based testing programme.

“The decision for secondary schools to have a staggered opening is in order to get the testing programme up and running and is not reflective of increased virus transmission or high case rates in Sheffield.”

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