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Sheffield City Council recommends all primary and special schools to remain open

chairs and tables in primary school

Sheffield City Council has written to all primary and special schools to advise them to reopen tomorrow (Monday 4 January 2021).

The letter, which thanks all school staff for what they have achieved during the pandemic, urges these schools to remain open and that it will be safe to do so. The letter, from Greg Fell, Director of Public Health for the Council, says that schools remaining open is vital for children’s educational and emotional wellbeing.

Mr Fell says: “We are writing to all schools to outline our advice which is that primary and special schools should open, as usual from tomorrow (Monday 4 January 2021). We strongly believe this is vital for the emotional and educational wellbeing of children.

“We recognise we have to balance educational provision and safety of staff and pupils and have given careful consideration to this in offering the advice we have. Sheffield remains, at this time, in Tier 3 restrictions.

“Our latest case data up to 1 January 2021 tells us we 175 positive COVID cases per 100,000 which is considerably lower than those in the South which as of 28 December 2020 showed, in London, a rate of 762 positive COVID cases per 100,000.  We have also considered the new variant of the virus which is no doubt more transmissible. However, There isn’t clear evidence to support that it is more transmissible in children per nor that it is having a more significant impact on either children or adults.

“Having taken all of this into careful consideration, we believe that it is safe to allow primary and special schools to open. The Public Health team will continue to monitor and review the situation.”

Cllr Abtisam Mohamed, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills at Sheffield City Council, said: “Our first priority is the safety of our children and the hardworking and dedicated staff at our schools. These are the people who have worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic to ensure our children continue to receive an education.

“This is why we believe it is important for primary and special schools to open as normal on Monday. We have made this decision after looking at the evidence, following advice from professionals. We will rigorously continue to press all schools on their legal duty to update risk assessments and put in place any necessary measures needed.”

“I understand the concerns that have been played out in the national media, but our priority  is ensuring, where it is safe and sensible to do so, that children receive the education they need and deserve.”

Sheffield’s Secondary schools are remaining closed to some year groups in order to enable them to put into place the school-based testing programme. The decision for secondary schools to have a staggered opening is in order to get the testing programme up and running and is not reflective of increased virus transmission or high case rates in Sheffield.

The Council has also reminded all pupils and school staff returning to school on the 4 January 2021 of what they can continue to do to reduce COVID-19 in their communities.