Minsters are urging parents not to remove their children from school before the start of the Christmas holidays.
After ministers agreed a plan that would allow up to four households to mix for five days the government said families would be able to enjoy Christmas together across the whole of the UK. However teachers unions have warned that some parents are planning to keep children at home during the final two weeks of term because they are worried about them picking up coronavirus and passing it on to family members.
Joint general secretary of the National Education Union, Kevin Courtney, said there was heightened concern among parents about their children being exposed to the virus in the run-up to Christmas. Mr Courtney said: “I’ve heard anecdotally of some parents saying ‘I am not going to run the risk of not taking my child to see Gran’. We are hearing that parents won’t send their kids to school for the last couple of weeks to keep them safe with further comments expressed of: “Parents would seemingly rather keep their children at home so that they are not told to isolate by their school. That is the concern that I am hearing.”
The schools minister Nick Gibb said: “I know this is a challenging time but the latest data shows only 0.2 per cent of pupils were off school isolating with a confirmed case of coronavirus. Closing early for Christmas or extending the holidays is not the answer. The best place for children to be is in schools, which is why it remains a national priority to keep them open full time and avoid further disruption to education.” He added that the Chief Medical Officer believed schools should remain open and that children were at a very low risk from the virus. He further commented that this, “highlighted the damage caused by not being in education. The dangers to a child’s education, development, and mental health greatly outweighs any other risks”.
The Tory chairman of the education select committee, Robert Halfon MP, said: “We will risk an epidemic of education poverty the longer children stay at home.”