Speaking after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson addressed the House of Commons to update on the return to school in January, Richard Long, Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “The Government has today announced that the majority of secondary school pupils will learn remotely for an additional week after the current school holidays, returning to the classroom on Monday, January 18 instead of Monday, January 11 as planned.
“Pupils in Years 11 and 13 will return to school on Monday, January 11 and will be provided with remote learning for the week beginning Monday, January 4.
“Primary school pupils in some areas of Kent will return on Monday, January 4 while others will learn remotely for the first two weeks of term with arrangements being reviewed on Monday, January 18.
“The districts and boroughs that have been defined by the Government as ‘contingency framework’ areas, and where primary pupils will work remotely, are: Dartford, Gravesham, Sevenoaks, Ashford, Maidstone, Tonbridge and Malling, Tunbridge Wells and Swale.
“Primary pupils in all other areas of Kent should attend school on Monday, January 4 as planned.
“Vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers in both secondary and primary schools in all areas of the county will have access to face to face learning in schools from Monday, January 4.
“The Department for Education said the new measures have been put in place to break chains of transmission and keep all schools as safe as possible.
“The vast majority of Kent schools have remained open throughout the entirety of the pandemic – for vulnerable learners and the children of key workers in the first lockdown, and for all pupils since September.
“School staff have done a fantastic job of managing extremely difficult circumstances effectively and safely and I have every confidence they will continue to do so.
“Kent County Council will continue to support schools to adhere to Government guidelines, sharing the latest advice from the Department for Education and Public Health England and assisting them to continue supporting pupils and staff in the safest way possible.
“We will also support secondary schools with the regular testing of symptom-free staff, and of pupils and staff who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, after pupils return to school in mid-January.
“This regular rapid testing will allow more pupils and staff to remain in school as they will not have to automatically self-isolate if someone in their bubble tests positive for COVID-19.
“We would encourage all schools to offer this testing but only when they have sufficient measures in place to allow them to do so safely.
“This will not happen at the same time for all schools and head teachers will contact parents/carers with information about testing for their children as soon as arrangements are in place.
“I would like to remind everyone that as well as taking advantage of testing opportunities, they should continue to follow Tier 4 restrictions and Government guidelines on handwashing, social distancing and the wearing of face coverings to minimise the spread of the virus and reduce the pressure on the NHS.”