A number of Thanet primary schools will not open for pupils tomorrow

St Gregory's Catholic Primary School

Some primary schools in Thanet have notified parents that they will not be reopening to pupils tomorrow (January 4)

St Gregory’s Catholic Primary School in Margate says the plan had been to open but due to staff having to self-isolate “we do not feel confident that we would be able to open and ensure the health and safety of our school community.”

Instead the school plans to reopen on January 11 if staffing levels enable that decision.

A letter to parents and carers says: “As you may be aware from the news, the government have decided that despite being in a Tier 4 area, all Thanet schools can re-open from next week.

“Given the new strain of the virus and the speed at which it is passed on, we appreciate that this is causing anxiety amongst our parents, children and staff. However, in line with government guidance we had planned to open next week.

“We have reviewed our risk assessment and unfortunately, due to staff who are currently needing to self-isolate, we do not feel confident that we would be able to open and ensure the health and safety of our school community.

“As such we have made the difficult decision to not open the building to children until Monday 11th January, should all our staff be well and able to be on-site.”

From Tuesday, January 5, teachers will be posting online learning.

‘State of disbelief at government decision’ says St Peter-in-Thanet Junior School head teacher

St Peter-in-Thanet Junior School will remain closed to all except vulnerable and key worker pupils until at least January 18.

In a letter to parents and carers headteacher Tim Hunter-Whitehouse says he was in “a state of disbelief” at the government’s decision to close other Kent schools whilst expecting those in four districts, including Thanet, to reopen.

He adds: “You will also no doubt be aware that the unions have decided that they have no other choice now but to advise staff that face to face teaching for the majority of children should not take place.

“Whilst we have been doing everything that we can to make St Peter’s as safe as possible, I believe that the government’s decision to keep schools open in Thanet is reckless and does not pay due regard to the safety of children, their families or of my staff and their families. The government’s decision appears ill-thought through and goes against the latest SAGE advice.

“At present we do not know the outcome of Kent’s pressure, or indeed the possibility of good sense prevailing in Whitehall. There may indeed be a last minute reversal and all schools will be officially told to close.I really do hope that this is the case.

“But if it isn’t, I’ve taken the decision that for at least the first two weeks of January St Peter’s will only be open for the children of key workers and our most vulnerable children and that we will support the majority of our children’s learning remotely.”

Mr Hunter-Whitehouse says that whilst he hopes there will be a last minute U-turn he has taken the decision that St Peter-in-Thanet school will remain shut to all but key worker and vulnerable children for two weeks, with all other pupils using online learning.

He adds it is a decision not taken lightly but adds: “I do not think this will be for long -there truly is light at the end of the tunnel and I have every hope that with better testing and as vaccines take effect, that schools and the country will begin to feel normal once more in the near future.”

Inset Days at Kemnal Academies Trust schools

Drapers Mills Primary Academy, Salmestone Primary and Northdown Primary in Margate plus Dame Janet and Newlands primary school in Ramsgate are also delaying opening to pupils and will have an inset day tomorrow (January 4) followed by two days for keyworker and vulnerable children only.

A letter to parents and carers from the schools, which are managed by the Kemnal Academies Trust, says: “Our school is in a COVID 19 Tier 4 area and the new strain has significantly increased the number of people who are being infected. The safety of our children and staff remains our prime concern.

“As result, on the advice of the Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT), we have taken the difficult decision, at short notice, to delay the opening of our school. This is to enable us to review our risk assessments and put in place any further safety measures that may be needed.

“At the direction of the Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT), Monday 4th January (tomorrow) will now be an INSET day and our school will be closed to all children. On Tuesday 5th and Wednesday 6th January school will now be open to vulnerable children and children from Keyworker families only.

“All other children will be taught via remote. We intend to open our school to all children from Thursday 7th January, but this is subject to any changes to national guidance. We will of course let you know of any changes as soon as we know.

“This decision has not been taken lightly and we fully appreciate the inconvenience this will cause, but the safety of the children and staff comes first. We are grateful for your understanding and continued support during this most difficult of times.”

Bromstone Primary and St Mildred’s Infant Schools

Bromstone  Primary and St Mildred’s Infant schools in Broadstairs executive headteacher James Williams  said the schools will be shut for Monday and Tuesday “in the first instance” apart from for vulnerable and key worker children.

He wrote to parents to say: “I was more than a little surprised that the four East Kent districts – Thanet, Canterbury, Folkestone and Dover – were not included when the directive was issued on Friday. It was then also slightly strange that when all London boroughs were asked to close that East Kent was not. Since this last government decision I have spoken to the Area Education Officer at KCC and had communication from the Chairman of the Kent Association of Headteachers, who have both questioned this decision, as well as one of the Thanet MPs, Sir Roger Gale, who has been very clear with his thoughts that it is not safe for Thanet primaries to open at this time.

“Unfortunately these requests have as yet fallen on deaf ears in government but I have a responsibility to the staff and pupils of our schools and their health must come first, as must that of family members who can also be affected through school transmission.

“To that effect, I have taken the decision to partially close both schools for two days in the first instance – Monday 4th January and Tuesday 5th January. This will mean that both schools will only be open for the children of Key Workers or those pupils who are deemed as ‘vulnerable’ (generally, but not exclusively, those who are in receipt of an EHCP).

“We will have Breakfast Club provision available at both schools alongside this provision and you will not be obliged to attend school every day if your working pattern does not require that. During this time we will thoroughly re-visit and update our school Risk Assessments and staff availability in order to decide the course of action that is best in the longer term.”

Chilton Primary School and Upton Junior School

Chilton head of school Kate Law has told parents/carers that the school will stay shut to all except vulnerable and key worker children for the first two weeks of the new term, until January 15 “at least.”

She said: “Whilst we continue to do everything we can to make Chilton as safe as possible, under current circumstances I do not believe it is safe for the whole school to be open.”

She adds: “What I hope is that by taking action now we can assist in reducing infection rates and avoid a longer period of closure in the future which would be far more detrimental.”

Upton Junior School has notified parents of their closure for the same dates (online learning from January 5). It is understood the same applies to Ramsgate Arts Primary as all three schools come under the Viking Academy Trust.

St Joseph’s Primary

The Broadstairs primary says that due to staffing levels, the school has been left with no alternative other than to close  classes until January 18 or until further guidance is issued, apart from children who have parents who are Key Workers, have an EHCP or are vulnerable.

No fines

Schools, including St George’s in Broadstairs, have told parents that “no fines will be issued for pupils not attending school” although the school is required to follow government attendance codes.

St George’s C/E school

Headteacher of St George’s Foundation School in Broadstairs Adam Mirams says the school will be open for “those families that really need us over the next two weeks and for those children that remain highly vulnerable.”

He adds: “If you feel that it is unsafe to send your child to school then that is your decision and I will not be fining or criticising you for this. The decision rests with individual families and I for one will be continuing all I can to ensure the safety of all.

“I have for over 9 months now had to continually weigh up the risk to our school community, follow Government advice and this is not the way in which I would want 2021 to start for all of us. I would once again reiterate that I am not closing the school I am simply giving all parents the choice in whether your child attends or not. The decision is yours.

“All lessons will continue either remotely or via Purple Mash and if in school children will be taught in Year Group PODS as before.

“There will continue to be a wide range of opinions around the topic of school opening and infection rates but in my opinion the decision over school attendance must lay with you as parents. We will continue to do all we can to support you, I will try and provide as much clarity as I can and my overall aim is to keep infection rates down, support our NHS and Critical workers and ensure that the people we care for most remain well.

“If your child will not be attending school, please report the absence via the attendance email [email protected] stating your child’s name, year group and length of absence.”

Newington primary

Newington head teacher Cliff Stokes has also issued a news letter to say all covid measures will be in place but tells parents: “I am not in a position to determine whether children will be safe in school, that is your choice and we will, of course, support you with whatever decision you make on behalf of your children.”

Christ Church Junior School in Ramsgate is open from Tuesday (January 5) but is also leaving the decision up to parents about sending children in to class.

A letter sent out today says some staff have sent letters to say they will not return to face to face teaching but will provide online learning but there are enough staff to open to pupils.

The letter adds: “We would like to reassure parents that the decision rests with them entirely and the school will support any decision they make at this time.”

Staff shortages

Parents and carers with children at Cliftonville primary have received a message saying: “Many apologies for the late notice but due to staff shortages the school will be closed tomorrow and until further notice to Pre School, Year R, Year 1 and Year 5.

“Provision for critical workers and vulnerable children will begin from Tuesday. Further information on this will follow. The school remains open to Y2, Y3, Y4 and Y6. We look forward to welcoming you back tomorrow at your year groups time.”

St Anthony’s School in Cliftonville is closed tomorrow (January 4) and parents will be contacted for details of the rest of term.

Unconfirmed

Other primary schools on the isle may have closures but we have been unable to confirm. These include Garlinge primary -closure Monday and Tuesday; and Ramsgate Holy Trinity – closure until January 18. Advice is to contact your child’s school if unsure.

Thanet’s Green Councillors Becky Wing – who is a teacher -Mike Garner and Trevor Roper say in a situation worsened by the abject failure of the test-and-trace system and the new B117 Covid-19 variant, school staff and parents now face further uncertainty and worry as the new term approaches.

They say headteachers have neither the space nor the personnel to manage Covid-secure testing in schools at the rate promised by the Government. Unable to access vaccines, staff, pupils and parents are increasingly concerned about the risk of infection, with the new variant proving both more prevalent among the young and significantly more infectious.

Cllr Wing said: “As a teacher myself, I know how important school attendance is, especially for vulnerable children and those with special needs.  Key workers need to know that their children are safe at school while they work on the front line to support us all. But we must balance the benefits of being in school against the health of the community as a whole.

“Here in Thanet, Covid-19 infections are on the rise again. Hospitals are overwhelmed, with more than double the number of serious Covid-19 cases than in the first wave.  Staff are stretched to the maximum, unable to meet safe nursing requirements for the most seriously ill, but with no sign of respite. Sending all children back to school in these circumstances is madness, and risks burdening young people and their parents with the results of the Government’s poor decision-making.”

Thanet Green Councillors are calling on the Government to provide joined-up community-wide policy-making to reduce the spread of the virus, by ensuring safe school-based learning for those who need it most, facilitating home-learning for the rest, rethinking exam policy for this summer and beyond – and by providing clarity, leadership and planning for the future.

Roger Gough

Kent County Council Leader Roger Gough and Cabinet Member for Education and Skills Richard Long have written to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to urge him to keep primary schools closed in Thanet, Canterbury, Dover and Folkestone and Hythe.

Kent County Council says it does not have any statutory powers to order schools to close.

The Government announced earlier this week that the majority of secondary school pupils will learn remotely for an additional week after the current school holidays, returning to the classroom on Monday, January 18 instead of Monday, January 11 as planned.

Pupils in Years 11 and 13 will return to school on Monday, January 11 and will be provided with remote learning as soon as possible.

Primary school pupils in Thanet, Canterbury, Dover and Folkestone and Hythe are expected to return on Monday, January 4 while the other districts in Kent will learn remotely for the first two weeks of term with arrangements being reviewed on Monday, January 18.

Questions have been raised over why some primary schools in Kent will only open to vulnerable children and pupils whose parents are key workers while other areas must open the doors to all youngsters from January 4.

On December 30 Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said a ‘small number of areas where infection rates are highest’ will only open schools for vulnerable children and those whose parents are critical workers until review on January 18.

A list of those areas includes Dartford, Gravesham, Sevenoaks, Medway, Ashford, Maidstone, Tonbridge and Malling, Tunbridge Wells and Swale.

Thanet primary schools were not listed for continued closure despite being in Tier 4 and having a higher covid rate per 100,000 than Tunbridge Wells where school opening has been delayed.

‘Unsafe’

Yesterday (January 2) the National Education Union told all its members that is believes it is unsafe for them to return to schools.

It is understood that “preliminary steps in legal proceedings against the Department for Education” have also been taken by other teaching unions.

The NEU has written to all employers and all head teachers and principals giving the same advice and asking them to make preparations for a move to remote learning instead.

An online meeting held by the NEU this morning attracted some 400,000 viewers.

38 Comments

    • Supermarkets are not safe either especially for delivery drivers .
      I’ve had to self isolate twice in 6 weeks because people don’t follow the rules . All online delivery should cease as its high risk .

  1. Why has saint Gregory’s got so many staff self isolating when they have not had contact with any school children for over fifteen days does this mean that they have not been following tier four rules and mixing over Christmas and new year this level of absence is not seen in any other businesses to the point when they cannot open as a grandparent of a child at this school this cannot be justified please explain how so many of your staff have managed to catch this virus

    • It is not just due to teaching staff isolating. Teachers unions have advised staff to not return if they dont feel safe too. I think headteachers and governors have added up how many staff wish to return and totalled staff to pupil ratios.

    • Symptoms of the virus can take up to 10 days to present so maybe they contracted the virus in school but didn’t have symptoms until school holidays, i believe that’s why a close contact has to self isolate for 10 days?!

    • Dear Concerned Grandparent,

      Unfortunately you seem to have bought the spin and nonsense of our PM, this illness does not just pass in the homes and pubs. It spreads EVERYWHERE. There is no such thing as “covid safe” unless you don’t leave the house and have no deliveries.

      You can catch this shopping, from a partner that works in a hospital, a shop or the list of places still open. Which if they are open people will visit. This is why the PM needs to close more places and stop the narrative that anywhere is safe.

      It’s safer but not safe. It would not be spreading at this alarming rate if it’s just household mixing and pubs.

      I could list a hundred other things Boris has told you that aren’t quite true but I’m sure you’d dismiss them all.

      Your little “Timmy/Tammy” will be far safer and have a far brighter future if the PM closed schools and started making decisions before there are no decisions left to make like he has constantly done through out this. Leaving all options to close and be left with the worst.

      Please don’t believe the nonsense and blame teachers

      Thanks

    • To the “concerned grandparent”

      I read your comment and was astounded at your ignorance. I will not add any more as I think the response from ‘not impressed’ said it all. I should imagine your grandchild’s teacher is just as gutted that they cannot teach and be in. Please educate yourself before making comments that I’m sure would be so hurtful if seen by the staff at the school.

      Thank you

    • Along with the other responses there are also staff members from st gregorys who are currently sheilding after receiving letters advising them to do so. Since this has started they have done their very best to ensure the safety of our children and families. I do not believe it is a case of them breaking tier 4 rules. The virus is on the rise, they are allowed to go shopping, medical appointments, out for essentials, how do you know those isolating haven’t caught it then?

  2. Maybe their spouses work and have caught the virus, maybe they have children who caught it in schools. Don’t jump to the conclusion they broke tier 4 rules.

  3. I would like to know the logic behind keeping some area primary schools open and not others..in Thanet we are on tier 4, with higher weekly totals that Tonbridge amongst others yet our primary schools are supposed to open. What’s the reason… Because I can’t seem to see one. My daughter was not allowed to see her grandparents this Christmas but it’s ok for her to sit in a class room of up to 30 kids whose family’s may or may not have abided by the rules.

  4. The PM can waffle and bluster all he likes about primary schools being open tomorrow.
    The reality is that nearly all will be closed in part in in total because of isolating bubbles of children and lack of staff.
    I’m sure everyone agrees that having children in school, having their lessons and social interaction in as normal a way as possible.
    But these are not normal times. Boris has said that more restrictions are likely in the weeks (days, surely?) ahead. How can he possibly insist that schools reopen?

  5. Must admit I thought there was something wrong with my hearing when the PM said Schools are a safe environment. He just doesn’t like being proved wrong, a bit like his mate Donald Trump….

  6. To Not Impressed – thank you I couldn’t of put it better myself.

    On a personal level I just don’t understand how some people think that schools only have Teachers that work in them! Teachers always get the back lash, it’s all wrong!
    It says ‘staff’ which could mean, teachers, tas, SLT, Admin, Cleaners and so on.
    Let’s break the law and open up just because Karen is affected. Let’s ignore all the covid secure guidance, risk assessments and do that just for Karen. Let’s undo everything just for all the Karen’s out there and put everyone and ALL the children and staff at risk too!
    I understand people’s personal circumstances differ however I cannot believe some people are so selfish!
    Well done and Thank You to all the teachers & ‘STAFF’ who have continuously gone above & beyond throughout the whole pandemic and remained open for Keyworkers and vulnerable up until now where they have been forced to close.
    Thank you to those who have worked tirelessly and acted as normal for the sake of the children, hats off to you all.
    I wish the ‘staff’ member or maybe their family members that who are affected a speedy and safe recovery.

  7. So all teachers and staff not affected will be in the safe environment of school tomorrow giving online lessons from the safe classrooms with no children present doing the job we all pay them to do as this is a safer environment then the rest of us probably work in day to day having to meet other members of the public As we all know online teaching has been a joke with most of the work not set by class teachers to their own pupils let’s hope this is not the case tomorrow and my grandchild gets the teaching she deserves from her own teacher and class room assistant

    • “Concerned grandparent” Well let us just hope that instead of spreading your archaic and single minded views on here you have also had the courage to contact the school directly as I am sure they would love to hear your comments about their staff.

    • Online teaching is a very new thing. Parents can use the traditional methods if they want. Is information about the current school syllabus still available online?

  8. So the everywhere else you can catch covid has to go on as normal the supermarkets that have been open since the start do you not think the workers there have been scared since the start of all of this? The guy who works down the local corner shop wheres the union telling him to shut up shop and go home?I bet half of you that are writing to the concerned grandparent also piled into the shops to panic buy or Christmas shop. People are entitled to an opinion and mine is teachers need to get on with it with there googled lessons that they give to our children a half hearted attempt at home learning while the rest of us have to carry on working and doing there job for them.
    Timmy or Tammy’s parents should have the right to choose of they send there child to school. Those that dont want too dont it’s simple as that. Yes covid is rubbish yes everyone is fed up. But these teachers get payed alot of money to sit at home and give half hearted attempts at home learning while the rest of us have to get on with it.

  9. To the clearly selfish concerned ‘grandparent ‘ the whole world doesn’t revolve around you. If you have an issue contact the school directly.

    We are talking about 4 days off school.

    Have a look at whats going on around you children fighting for their lives with cancer. And you are on a newspaper site moaning because your ‘grandchilds’ school have put their safety first.

    Give your head a wobble

  10. I bet half the people commenting on the concerned grandparent post are the same people who piled into the shops to panic buy or piled into shops to do their christmas shopping at the first opportunity but sit on the self righteous throne of judgement to someone who dares criticise teachers. What about shop workers who have had to work throughout this whole thing, bus drivers, nurses, doctors, paramedics, mental health professionals the list goes on of those of thise that have had to just get in with it. The teachers are payed to do a job they self isolate they get full pay if a factory worker isolates they get statutory sick pay. Teachers are payed alot of money to send googled standard home learning packs home and parents are expected to work from home and teach children too. I don’t see the local corner shop man having a union back him to shut up shop and go home yet hes at as much risk as catching it and taking it home as you and I. You dont want to send your child to school then don’t. But the teachers are payed to do a job they just need to get on with it!

    • This is due to failed policies of our Government. Why haven’t they succeeded yet in effective testing of all those entering schools, hospitals, shops etc. Like they have done in Asian countries? Why aren’t the Government giving the vaccine to all frontline workers, teachers, medical staff, shop workers, etc.. We all need to join workers unions to protect ourselves at work because the Government is NOT doing this!

  11. Concerned grandparent, secondary school teachers come into contact with up to 30 children per class they teach. So, if they teach 4 lessons a day that’s 120 children. I doubt there are many jobs out there where individuals have contact with that number of unmasked people in a confined space with no ppe. It is a horrid situation that we’re in and the school staff will be as sad and worried as parents that children are not able to receive the education they deserve. I am a grandparent myself and worry that my grandchildren’s progress will be hit by the latest closures but I worry more that their and their parents’ health could be placed at risk if they return to school at present.

  12. Having previously witnessed pupils receive online learning from different thanet schools during the previous closures, it is of great concern to me that the quality of education pupils recieve online is inadequate and will damage a whole generation of children. Not all children receive ‘zoom classes’, many are left with their already busy parent trying to home school them and make their way through online activities set which are simply not learning. Each school is different, I just hope these closures are kept short so children can get back to receiving an education of a higher quality than that of online learning. Afterall, many others are still expected to go into the workplace everyday and have no choice but to be in close proxmity with the public.

  13. Supermarket delivery drivers are at risk too .
    I’ve had to self isolate twice in 6 week period due to people not following rules .
    If schools are not safe then neither are supermarkets and all online delivery’s should cease until further notice

  14. Will people be advocating closing schools every year from now on, as viruses come and go and mutate constantly, as they inevitably do? Imagine the harm to children and education, and society as a whole. The current virus has not been isolated and the survival rate is over 99.7 per cent, and the testing system is very flawed with many false positives.

  15. The survival rate is not 99.7%. You persist in posting this false data.
    You are comparing the number of deaths with the total population of the country, whether they’ve had CV or not.
    Testing might be flawed (what tests aren’t?) but a dead bodyis most likely a dead body, and there’s credible stats to
    The death rate for people contracting C19 is about 3.5%, higher for more vulnerable people.

  16. I bet those of you slating the concerned grandparents comments are the same people who piled into the shops to panic buy or Christmas shop at the first opportunity. Wheres the union backing the local corner shop guy who’s worked through all of this telling him to shut up shop and go home hes just as much at risk as you or I. The same as supermarket workers, paramedics, nurses, doctors, mental health workers, postmen, bus drivers the list goes on.. they have all had to get on with it so should teachers. They are paid a very good wage to give google standard home learning while parental try and juggle home working and doing there job for them. If a factory worker has to isolate they get statutory sick pay teachers get full pay. We are all in the same boat in this and the rest of us have to get on with it so should teachers. If you dont want to send little ‘Timmy or Tammy’ to school then dont but it should be a parents choice. This isnt going away anytime soon and teachers should just suck it up and get on with the job they are paid to do.

    • You’re missing the point.
      Schools are one of the few remaining places where large numbers of people from many households are meeting in a covid insecure environment. It’s well understood that schools (and colleges and universities) are major spreading centres.
      And if most children are not going to school, those deemed vulnerable or of key workers are still attending.
      So, if teachers, TAs and other support staff are not actually in the classroom, they’re busily re-writing all their material for presentation via Zoom or web.

      • No your missing the point the home learning is inadequate most home learning it not via zoom it’s a googled standard home learning pack often on topics that children haven’t even done yet. I dont think people would have so much of a problem if a lesson was being virtually taught but this is not the case children are being left to do learning that is not fit for purpose.

        • I’ve no doubt that home learning no matter how well presented, is not the ideal delivery mechanism for many children.
          However, schools are the perfect delivery mechanism for CV.
          So, we’ll just have to put up with the inconvenience until coronavirus is sorted out.

  17. Supermarkets everyone is wearing masks. Places staying open are enforcing strict rules which help make it safer.

    Schools have big bubbles, big mixing, hard to enforce social distancing and no masks.

    This is not rocket science.

    • Not impressed People in supermarkets are not wearing face masks yes workers are but I’ve seen teenagers and adults not wearing them just none idol .
      I’m sick and tired of people flouting the rules .
      If this is the way things are going then supermarkets should stop online delivery and no mask no entry .

      • I take it by your comments that you are one of them people that only think of themselves. There are many people, including me that have to have deliveries from supermarkets because we are disabled and Can’t get out to shop. If online deliveries are stopped, what do we do? Starve???? Or do you think that disabled people ain’t worth helping?

  18. The shop workers/shop assistants and all public workers eg bus drivers etc. need to be given the power to tell people to put masks on and to enforce it – the only exception is if people have serious conditions and are wearing their badge to say so. Apparently shop assistants on check out have no right to tell people to put masks in!!How crazy is that ?

  19. I’m glad Anonymous/Anon corrected their own spelling mistakes in their second post. No wonder they’re worried about home schooling.

    Ever thought remote lessons weren’t part of a teaching degree? Ever thought teachers are trying their best with the last minute decisions made?

    I’m glad most of these posts have hidden their names because I would hate for a teacher to read these from a relation of a child in their class.

  20. I hope those who so bravely wrote post about the school over social media and quickly deleted them because they had to have their kids home for 4DAYS!!!!! Send their Apologies now that the staff had put SAFETY measures in place so key workers children can come in to school Wednesday. Some very selfish people at st Gregory’s, funny how its always the same ones with a problem. Seems like perhaps they don’t want their own children at home and care very little about their child’s safety. Just about themselves and their own selfish needs. Hope you do well at your job you are PAID to do anonymous, bet you are sat in an office all day not facing the public.

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