What North East councils are saying about schools going back to remote learning in the New Year

Schools across the North East are making sure their contingency plans are robust in case they have to move learning online after the Christmas holidays.

The Government says it is committed to ensuring that classrooms stay open in January and schools have been advised to reopen next term under current guidance.

However, as Omicron cases continue to rise across the country, plans are being reviewed to move to remote learning if necessary.

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A spokesperson from Newcastle City Council said: “As an education system, we have experience from previous lockdowns to draw upon and all of our schools have reviewed their contingency planning in the last few weeks leading up to the Christmas break.

“As always, we will be led by DfE and health guidance when making decisions as a local authority and at individual school and Trust level.

“Our previous work ensured that we had very few school closures during lockdowns last year. Keeping schools open is a priority for Newcastle City Council and our schools leaders.”

Meanwhile, South Tyneside Council says it is working to ensure laptops will be available for those children needing access to a digital device should there be a further lockdown after the Christmas break.

Coun Adam Ellison, lead member for children, young people and families, said: “We await further guidance from the Government but are conscious of the very real threat Omicron poses to everyday life and we recognise the picture is changing on a daily basis.

“However, we are working closely with our schools to ensure that we are as prepared as we possibly can be. We would like to thank our school staff for their ongoing efforts in what are extremely challenging times as well as parents and carers for their ongoing support and understanding.”

North Tyneside Council says there are no plans to move to remote learning but school contingency plans cover the need to switch to it if required.

Sunderland City Council also says it currently has no plans to move to online learning.

Coun Louise Farthing, cabinet member for children, education and skills, said: “All our schools, academies and colleges are doing an incredible job meeting the needs of our young people in what, as we all know, have been and continue to be extremely challenging circumstances.

“As they have done throughout the pandemic, schools in Sunderland are continuing to follow guidance and all the necessary restrictions.

“At present and in line with guidance, there are no plans to switch to remote learning and it is expected that schools will re-open as planned for the new term next month.

“Should this change, we’ll all continue to work together and support our students, staff and families.”

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And a Northumberland County Council spokesperson said: “Schools already have in place risk assessments and measures to ensure they can follow the latest guidance.

“They will continue to be supported by the local Public Health team, Health and Safety and Education Team in line with government advice in the new year.”

Education minister Alex Burghart told MPs on Wednesday that the Government was putting measures in place to “make sure that we have the best chance for the start of a normal school term” in England.

He said testing on return to school, vaccination uptake, ventilation in classrooms and hygiene measures would ensure in-person teaching could continue – and that the booster vaccination programme would be “key”.

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Chronicle Live – Sunderland