Bedford Borough Council has confirmed to the Bedford Independent that almost half of the Borough’s primary schools have taken the decision to remain closed to all but the most vulnerable children and the children of key workers.
Three schools have confirmed they will be open from tomorrow and the remainder will confirm their position today.
The council has said that it supports each of the schools in their decisions.
School closures in Bedford go against government advice, that primary schools are permitted to remain open under tier 4 restrictions, despite the rapid rise in Covid-19 (coronavirus) cases in our area.
The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, announced that secondary schools would remain closed for the first half of January while mass testing for pupils was put into place.
As cases continue to rise in Bedford Borough, Mayor Dave Hodgson wrote to Gavin Williamson MP on 2 January, asking him to request primary schools to also remain closed.
Over the weekend, a number of primary schools had taken the decision to go against the government guidelines and implement remote learning.
“The decision to open a school to all pupils, or just to the most vulnerable children and children of key workers is one each school has to take, and the Council will support their decision,” said a spokesperson for the Council.
“As at 10am today (Monday), 24 (out of 54) primary schools in Bedford Borough have made the decision to delay the full opening of their school.
“Three schools have decided that they will open to all pupils from Tuesday 5 January. The remaining schools are considering their position today.
“This is a fast moving situation and I expect the decisions by individual schools to change rapidly throughout the day.”
The Bedford Conservative Group supported the Borough’s position, saying: “We regret the need to keep children from school, but it is vitally important that we do all we can to stop COVID-19 continuing to spread given the current situation.
“By keeping the number of cases as low as possible, I am hopeful we can keep our local hospitals from being overwhelmed, so that they can continue to provide the vital services that they have supported us with, during this difficult time.”
Ruth Wilkes is Federation Principal at Castle Newnham School. Their secondary school site had already prepared to delay its return until mid January.
Mrs Wilkes told the Bedford Independent: “We agree with our mayor, local MP and the Borough Council that a delay in reopening for the majority is essential at the present time.
“We will be planning and supporting home learning for the majority and opening a provision for our most vulnerable children and children of critical workers from tomorrow (Tuesday).”
Mohammad Yasin, MP for Bedford and Kempston highlighted the need to protect school staff and vulnerable family members from the new strain of Covid-19.
He also criticised Boris Johnson, saying: “The Prime Minister has admitted that harsher restrictions are now inevitable so why is he extending Parliament’s Christmas holiday in a time of national crisis, dithering again and leaving decisions to others, when we know delaying difficult decisions on Covid-19 only causes higher infection rates, more pressure on hospitals, more deaths and longer lockdowns?
“All energy must then go into the fast rollout of the vaccine and getting a functioning test trace and isolate system in place which the public are supported in complying with. This is the only way to secure our economy, protect jobs and health in the long run.”