Parents should not take their children out of school before term ends, Downing Street has said.
The UK Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it is “important” that schools and parents “don’t take precautionary steps to deprive their children of education”.
The plea comes amid reports that parents are choosing to keep their children out of class ahead of Christmas due to concerns about the Omicron variant.
Some schools and colleges have switched to remote lessons this week in the run-up to the festive break.
Responding to suggestions that some parents are keeping their children at home to avoid the prospect of anyone catching COVID-19 and being forced to isolate over the Christmas period, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The best place for children—who have in many respects suffered the most through this pandemic—is in school, receiving vital face-to-face education.”
Government figures suggest 2.9 percent of all pupils—nearly 236,000 children—were not in class for reasons connected to coronavirus on Dec. 9.
This was up from 208,000 children, or 2.6 percent of all pupils, on Nov. 25.
But school leaders have warned of even worse attendance levels due to COVID-19 in recent days as the Omicron variant has spread further before Christmas.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “We agree that children should be in school and not missing out on education.
“But if parents feel nervous about sending their children in to classrooms due to the soaring levels of COVID, that is an indication that the Government needs to do more to control the spread of the virus.
“The Government can’t simply say that parents must send their children to school without taking the necessary action to reassure them that it is safe for them to do so.”
Two schools in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk—Sybil Andrews Academy and Abbots Green Academy—have moved to remote learning until the end of term on Friday after COVID-19 cases emerged.
Abingdon and Witney College in Oxfordshire has also moved the majority of its lessons online this week as a “proactive measure” to reduce the number of people at their campuses in the run-up to Christmas.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We’re sure that neither schools nor parents need lectures from Downing Street.
“Everybody is doing their very best to keep education going as best they can in increasingly difficult circumstances and amidst endless and unhelpful speculation.
“We agree that the best place for children is in school but we are also conscious that there are very high rates of infections in many settings and areas which are causing huge disruption.
“The Christmas holiday is only a couple of days away and it would be nice to get there without any more finger-wagging.”