Bedford Borough Mayor, Dave Hodgson, has called for an urgent review of the timetable for the opening of the area’s primary schools, asking for them to “remain closed for the time being” to help slow down the spread of coronavirus.
In a statement the Mayor said it was in response to the Secretary of State of Education’s U-turn on primary school openings in London.
“I am concerned that Bedford Borough primary schools are due to reopen next week despite the fact our number of positive coronavirus cases has been rising for a number of weeks,” he said.
“In the seven days to 27th December we recorded over 1,000 positive cases for the first time; in the same period we saw a rate of over 650 cases per 100,000.”
Mayor Dave Hodgson has now called for local education bosses to urgently review the decision for Bedford Borough primary schools to open on Monday (4 January).
“This would allow primary schools to remain closed for the time being, with the exception for children of key workers and those that need to attend school, for the safety of pupils, teachers and support staff,” added the Mayor.
Primary School across the country have been told they can reopen on Monday (4 January) while senior schools will open on a phased process from 11 January, so teachers and staff can prepare for mass testing of senior school age pupils.
Bedford’s Labour councillors and Mohammad Yasin MP have joined the Mayor in calling for a delay in the reopening of primary schools.
The group said: “We believe that additional measures are necessary to keep school staff and our communities safe at this time, particularly in view of Bedford Borough’s very high – and increasing – rates of Covid-19 infection.
“We recognise that the delay in reopening will cause parents and teachers a lot of concern, but there really are no options left to bring this virus under control in our communities.”
They feel that teaching staff have been placed in an impossible situation, Government have failed to implement a clear strategy for our schools, and teaching staff have been placed in an impossible position.
James Valentine, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services & Education said: “Children are better off in school, and it is with reluctance I support this demand, but with the virus spreading so rapidly we simply must protect teachers and support staff and the wider community.”
Education secretary, Gavin Williamson, u-turned on his decision to allow London’s primary schools to open on 4 Jan after leaders of nine London local authorities wrote to him urging him to allow primaries to stay closed.
The UK’S largest teaching union has also now called for all schools in England to remain closed for a two further weeks, reports The Guardian.
Dr Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the government needed to close schools in England before infection rates got out of control.
• Update: This article was amended on 02 January 2020 at 17:29, to include comments from Bedford Labour councillors.