South Tyneside Council ensures all children have laptop access in case of further restrictions after Christmas holiday
As children broke up for the Christmas holiday, South Tyneside Council has confirmed its schools are ensuring all children have a laptop device to access remote learning should another lockdown be imposed.
While there’s currently no directive for schools to return to remote learning at the start of the spring term, and education leaders are hopeful that schools will open as planned, the council has been proactive in preempting any change in that situation over the festive break.
A statement from the authority said: “Schools regularly update risk management plans and work closely with the Council to ensure latest information, guidance and local situation are taken into account.
“The local authority has been working to ensure that laptops will be available for those children needing access to a digital device should there be a further lockdown after the Christmas break.”
The local authority is one of many across the country which have been proactive in mitigating this eventuality following the situation in January of this year when the Government initially insisted schools would be open as usual while the largest teaching union, the NEU, advised members not to go to work if they felt unsafe.
It is a scenario which led to staffing issues and many of the country’s schools taking their own decision not to reopen to all but key-worker and vulnerable children following the Christmas break - something which Prime Minister Boris Johnson officially announced when addressing the nation on January 4 at the onset of lockdown.
It was a situation which left many schools having to frantically convert to remote learning at short notice – a scenario the Local Authority, pupils and parents don’t want to see repeated.
Councillor 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.”
In the same week schools have broken up, the Government’s scientific advisers have called for further restrictive measures to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant which experts warn could overwhelm the NHS if it is left unchecked.
Anxieties will only have been heightened after the Welsh Education minister, Jeremy Miles, this week wrote to schools telling them to have “robust plans in place to move to remote learning if required”.
Secondary age pupils (10 to 14) in South Tyneside are the current demographic with the highest prevalence of Covid, with a recorded rate on December 13 of 826.2 cases per 100,000 people.
Speaking on television on Sunday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he could not rule out further restrictions before Christmas.
The latest Government data shows that nationally, 236,000 pupils were out of school for Covid-related reasons on December 9.