Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Local primary school situation – PM to address nation at 8pm

**This post is now out of date: As at 20:00, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a full lockdown for England.

This means that the hoped-for re-opening of schools in West Berkshire will not now go ahead tomorrow.

There are exceptions for vulnerable pupils, the children of key workers and early years children.**


West Berkshire Council announced at 15:17 today that primary schools are “expected to return tomorrow following the Christmas holidays”. At around the same time Downing Street announced that the Prime Minister is recalling parliament for Wednesday, and that he is making a TV address to the nation at 8pm tonight.

The West Berkshire Council announcement text follows in italics, but should be reviewed against the Prime Minister’s remarks at 8pm. This article will be updated shortly afterwards.

Primary Schools and COVID

Under current guidance all Primary Schools in West Berkshire were expected to return tomorrow following the Christmas Holidays.

However, we are aware that some parents, teachers and Headteachers are concerned about the return of pupils to school after the festive break when the spread of COVID-19 continues to affect us at an increasing rate.

Most schools are on an INSET day today (Monday 4 January 2021) but a number of Headteachers have decided they will not be able to fully open tomorrow, as they will not have enough staff available to reopen safely due to union advice.  

As leaders of West Berkshire Council, we have been supporting and working with the Education team and Headteachers across the district to ensure that schools are COVID compliant and are as safe as possible for the return of pupils and staff. However, we are remaining alert to changes in the risk as more detailed evidence about the transmission rate of the new variant in different sectors of the population becomes available.  

The basis for the union action is that they believe schools are not safe places for their staff members, but acknowledge, as we believe, that schools are the best place for children to be. Headteachers are taking difficult but pragmatic decisions during this challenging time based on health and safety consideration, and we will support them.

In virtually all cases, schools will remain open for vulnerable children and those of critical workers. In those settings forced to close to other pupils, remote learning is being used wherever possible so that pupils can continue with their education. 

Schools are keeping in touch with parents on their opening status so parents should check with their child’s school for any updates.

At this critical time it is vital that all families and staff follow the rules for Tier 4 and take every precaution possible to reduce the danger of infection coming into school.

Please continue to follow the guidance:

  • avoid all non-essential contact,
  • following social-distancing rules,
  • wear face coverings, and
  • regularly wash/sanitise your hands.

More information on the Tier 4 rules can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tier-4-stay-at-home

More details and the criteria for education settings can be found here: