Norfolk schools pledge to do everything possible to keep children in school this January
Parents and carers are being reassured that schools across Norfolk are determined to do all they can to keep children in school in the face of a predicted peak in Covid infections in the county this January.
More than 200 headteachers and education professionals met over the New Year bank holiday to prepare for what looks to be a challenging start to 2022.
The virtual meeting, which was organised by headteacher's association Educate Norfolk and attended by Norfolk County Council education professionals, public health and health and safety advisors, heard the main challenge will be whether there are adequate staffing levels to assure student safety as increasing numbers of teachers and support staff either become unwell or are required to isolate.
Chris Snudden, Director of Learning and Inclusion at Norfolk County Council, said: "What we all want is for schools to be open and for children to be learning in the classroom with their friends, taught by their usual teachers and support staff.
"And there was a real determination to do all we can to fight for this to happen. We completely understand how difficult disruptions are for children and their families when their school, year group, or class closes for any length of time.
"Parents should expect there may be changes to the normal routine in the next few weeks, whether that is different adults teaching their children, slightly different lessons, or a short period of time learning from home.
"Please be understanding and be reassured your school will be doing everything possible to keep any disruption to an absolute minimum."
Cllr John Fisher, cabinet member for Children's Services, said: "We continue to do all we can to offer schools support and guidance at this particularly difficult time when week-on-week we are facing large increases in Covid infection rates.
"I am extremely impressed at how schools have responded throughout the pandemic and I have no doubt that school leaders and staff will continue to do all they can to keep their schools open, wherever possible."
Schools will be carrying out daily risk assessments on staffing levels to ensure particular classes, year groups, or the whole school can safely operate.
Ms Snudden said it was highly likely any disruptions or changes would vary from one school to another they will be largely dependent upon staffing numbers and risk assessments at individual schools.
In the last few days, the UK has seen a record-breaking number cases of Covid driven by the new Omicron variant. Rates in Norfolk have increased by 63% in the last week with the average number of daily new cases in the last seven days hitting an all-time high of over 2,000 cases per day. National modelling suggests that the peak of infections in Norfolk and other areas may be in mid-January, but the size and timing of this peak remain highly uncertain.
We would encourage parents and carers and young people aged 12 and over to book appointments for a booster jab. Find out more about who is eligible to get a Covid booster jab, find walk-in sites and book online.
Find out more about support for parents and children and young people at school.
Children and young people in Year 7 and above at secondary school or academy are required to wear face coverings in class until 26 January at the earliest. In Norfolk children in this age range have been asked to wear face coverings in communal areas, and while using school transport or public transport as an ongoing measure to protect them and those around them. This doesn't apply to primary age pupils.
Secondary schools and academies will be arranging for testing of students before returning to school this week. For further information about this check with your child's school.