Primary schools announce closure in St Albans despite Boris' direction

Camp School is closed until January 18 due to Covid risk fears. 

Camp School is closed until January 18 due to Covid risk fears. - Credit: Google Streetview

Two St Albans primary headteachers have closed their schools despite government guidelines to remain open. 

Colney Heath School and Camp Primary School have announced that they will be shut until January 18, due to the increased risk of Covid infections. 

Headteacher Peter Rose of Colney Heath School sent out a letter to parents and carers this morning explaining the reasons for his decision to go against Prime Minister Boris Johnson's advice and close for the next fortnight.

He said that he has taken this action to make things safer for pupils and staff due to the continued increase in the local Covid rate which raises the risk to children, staff and households.

He said teaching union the NEU has advised its members that it was unsafe to return to work teaching full classes, and called for all primary schools to move to remote learning for the first two weeks of January, except for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, with the plan for all pupils to return on January 18.

"This is a decision we did not want to make, and is the last resort for any leadership team and governing body. We have had to consider Government policy, teacher union guidance, as well as our own risk assessment, in the context of localised COVID-19 data. We are geographically close to many schools in similar circumstances and indeed, our local St Albans MP has expressed her similar concerns to ours. We have been contacted by Hertfordshire County Council, who have indicated that they would support our local decision making process.

"I understand that receiving this news so late will be very disruptive to many families, especially if you are trying to work from home at the same time as caring for young children. I also know the children will be upset at not coming back into school to see their friends and teachers. However, this decision is only being made at this time for the next two weeks and will be reviewed during the week of the 11th January, with a view to re-opening fully from 18th January."

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Meanwhile, Camp School has announced on its website that it would remain closed for all pupils except the children of key workers until January 18.

In an interview on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show yesterday, the Prime Minister insisted that "schools are safe" yet St Albans MP Daisy Cooper has been putting pressure on the government to enforce a full closure.

She told the Herts Ad: "Local primary schools have been put in an impossible position, and I'm furious that government incompetence is once again wreaking havoc on the lives of pupils, parents and teachers. Three neighbouring boroughs have been instructed to keep their primary schools closed for most children until the 18th January, whilst primary schools in St Albans, which has similar Covid rates and where we use the same over-stretched hospitals, are being told to re-open. 

"The government did a u-turn on the re-opening of primary schools in some London boroughs just 72 hours ago when it transpired that boroughs with similar rates were being asked to follow different arrangements. That same problem exists here and I am confounded that the government is refusing to address this inconsistency.

"In light of the new strain of the virus which transmits much faster, and hints from the Prime Minister himself that schools may need to close soon anyway, I'm calling for all primary schools in England to move to remote learning immediately and until at least 18 January. This would enable Ministers to use that time to get ahead of the virus, and publish a clear plan as to whether and how schools can re-open safely."

This newspaper has approached both school leadership teams to offer them the opportunity to talk further. We are awaiting a response.