Uttlesford primary school teaching goes online, as council seeks urgent clarity

Essex County Council. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA.

Essex County Council. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA. - Credit: ANDRA MACIUCA

Primary school students in Uttlesford, Tendring and Colchester will be taught via remote learning from tomorrow (Tuesday January 5) while Essex County Council seeks urgent clarity from the Department for Education.

Schools in these three districts were the only primary schools in Essex due to re-open, with the rest of the county’s primary schools remaining closed until Monday, January 18.

However, Covid-19 case numbers are rising. Over the past week, Uttlesford case rates have increased by 55 percent, Tendring cases have increased by 28 percent, and Colchester case rates have increased by 23 percent.

The move to remote learning has the support of the County Council’s Director of Public Health and regional Public Health England.

Under DfE rules, schools can be included in a ‘contingency framework’ which means they will operate on a remote learning basis if there are high levels of infection locally and pressure on local health services. All primary schools across the rest of Essex are already included in the contingency framework, because of high infection levels elsewhere in the county.

If the North Essex districts were included in the framework, it would mean that all primary schools in Essex would move to remote learning until at least Monday January 18, with the exception of critical worker and vulnerable children.

Essex County Council leader, Councillor David Finch, yesterday (Sunday) reminded Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, that the Essex Resilience Forum Strategic Co-ordination Group declared a ‘major incident’ in respect of the health system in Essex. And he has said that Covid-19 numbers are rising.

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“I would appreciate an urgent dialogue with Ministers in order that we can advise our primary schools and their parents on the outcome of this review.  In the meantime, we have advised all primary schools within these three districts to move to remote education for the majority of pupils.  

“I appreciate that the implementation of the contingency framework is an absolute last resort action, but as the data indicates, the chain of transmission across Essex continues to increase and we require all available support and assistance to break the chain and to bring this despicable virus under control.”

Cllr Ray Gooding, Essex County Council’s cabinet member for education, said: “It makes sense given the rising levels of infection in North Essex and the major incident in Essex’s health system that the position of primaries in North Essex is reviewed by the DfE.

"This is what happened in London at the end of last week, with the result that all primary schools in the capital were brought into the contingency framework. This is essentially Essex’s ask – we want to be treated consistently, especially given rising infection levels in the areas concerned.”