The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) advises that the rate of covid infections could spiral out of control unless schools are closed for the whole of January.
The Joint General Secretaries of the National Education Union reiterated their call on the Prime Minister to keep schools and colleges closed for at least the first two weeks in January, with online learning except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.
A petition asking that there is no mass return until staff are vaccinated and reliable rapid testing is in place has gained more than 68,000 signatures.
The government says military personnel are on standby to support secondary schools and colleges across England to roll out COVID-19 testing to students and staff when the new term begins in January.
The school reopening timetable is under review, says government.
Here a member of staff at one Thanet school tells us how they feel about being in the classroom during the pandemic. We have agreed to maintain their anonymity:
Unbeknownst to people on the outside looking in, the level of stress surrounding those working within schools is beyond anything you can imagine.
We go in every day, and we get on with our jobs, knowing full well the level of risk to ourselves, our families, and our friends and colleagues.
You blank out the news, you almost walk in to this bubble-this different world where the threat is real, but there’s nothing you can do about it. You must keep the children happy, focused, calm and unaware of the dangers, while also being the people they turn to with any questions, any fears or worries.
We watch our colleagues catch Covid-we hear that they’re seriously unwell with it. We catch it ourselves. And then we come back and get back on with our jobs.
Honestly, there are so many members of staff at a variety of different schools, who want to see the schools shut. Selfishly-maybe wrongly so, we want to prioritise the health of our own families and ourselves, even though we are being paid to do so for others children.
But we see the speed of the spread of this virus with our own eyes, hundreds of pupils being sent home, colleagues on the verge of panic constantly-it’s honestly terrifying.
Our colleagues are struggling with the level of intensity that they face every single day-their mental health is suffering. There is no support from ‘above’ because no one knows how to do so. Headteachers are doing their best-all members of staff are.
But when all is said and done, to us, the immediate future of our schools is clear.
We need to close, just until the numbers start to come down, until the vaccine can be given out to more people, and until it feels safer. We don’t want to be off (contrary to popular opinion), but we surely can’t be admonished for wanting to feel safe for us and our families.