Barking and Dagenham schools to remain closed

Signage outside a closed West Bridgford Infants School in Nottingham. Photograp: Tim Goode/PA.

The reopening of schools in Barking and Dagenham is being delayed in a bid to tackle the virus. - Credit: PA

Schools are to stay shut after the borough was included on a government list of coronavirus hotspots where infection rates are highest.

Barking and Dagenham is one of 22 London boroughs on the list which means only "vulnerable" children and those of key workers can return to primary school on Monday, January 4.

Secondary schools will open for exam year groups from January 11 with all students set to return on January 18. College students are expected to return on the same date.

Secondaries and colleges have been given one week to prepare for mass testing from January 4.

Special schools and nurseries will be open to all children from Monday, January 4.

Town hall officials are due to meet headteachers this morning (December 31) to work through the government guidance. 

Cllr Darren Rodwell, leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said he was pleased Westminster had finally listened to local government in London and delayed schools reopenings, but it made it "very difficult" for working parents to arrange childcare.

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He added schools needed the extra time to set up mass testing and that parents have a duty to make sure children get tested.

But he questioned why the press knew about the list before local authorities, blaming poor communication from central government.

Education secretary, Gavin Williamson MP, announced the plans yesterday (December 30) in the House of Commons days before schools had been due to return from the Christmas holidays.

Mr Williamson said: "This is of course a rapidly shifting situation but some things remain constant: we continue to act to preserve lives and the NHS and we continue to protect education by putting children first.

"With these plans, which allow for rapid testing and controlled return of schools, I am confident we can minimise the latest health risk posed by the virus."

The town hall spokesperson said: "We understand all of this is subject to government review and we will try to provide as much clarity as we can as the situation develops."

Barking and Dagenham is advising parents and carers to look out for messages on school websites about what they should do.