Council officials ‘expect’ Hertfordshire schools to re-open in January, as planned

However they say they are ready to act, should guidance from the government change

Wednesday, 22nd December 2021, 8:57 am

As schools prepared to close for the Christmas holidays, public health officials were dealing with Covid-19 ‘outbreaks’ at 246 of the county’s schools.

And in the last full week of the autumn term hundreds of Hertfordshire school children were diagnosed with the virus.

But despite the continuing prevalence of Covid-19 in Hertfordshire classrooms – and the emergence of the Omicron variant – county council officials say they ‘expect’ schools in the county to re-open in January.

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There has been some national speculation about the impact that the latest wave of the pandemic may have on schools.

And – with rising cases expected to cause increased staff absences – there have already been government appeals for retired or former teachers to return to the classroom.

But officials at Hertfordshire County Council have told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that they expect schools to return in January.

However they say they are ready to act, should guidance from the government change.

“We expect the school term to start as planned following the Christmas break, with secondary schools testing on site during the first week back as requested by the Department of Education,” said a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council.

“If government guidance changes, we are ready to support our schools to implement any new guidance.”

And commenting in particular on the government’s plea for former teachers to step forward, the spokesperson said: “We will follow any further guidance issued from the DfE and take any appropriate actions to support our schools.”

According to the latest available data, on Monday, December 20, public health officials were dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks at 246 of the county’s schools.

An ‘outbreak’ is recorded when five children, pupils, students or staff (or 10 per cent of that group) – who are likely to have mixed closely – test positive for Covid-19 within a 10-day period.

Meanwhile data shows that in the seven-days to December 14 there were 2793 children and young people who tested positive for Covid-19.

They included 1,126 children aged between five and nine; 1,011 aged 10 to 14; and 656 aged between 15 and 19

Last week executive member for education, libraries and lifelong learning Cllr Terry Douris and executive director of children’s services Jo Fisher wrote to schools to thank staff for their “hard work and dedication”.

The letter notes the work of school staff in ‘nurturing and preparing future generations for the wider world’, and in supporting parents to work or care for others.

And it says to staff, that they are ‘key to the smooth running of every part of our day to day lives’.

“We want you to know that your efforts do not go unnoticed, and we are thankful for the part you play,” it says.

The letter points to “the greatest resilience” shown by school staff and the way they have adapted to ‘requirements’ such as virtual learning, testing and the hosting of vaccination clinics.

It also notes that ‘there will be further challenges relating to the pandemic’ in the New Year.

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