EDUCATION leaders have criticised the Government for the way it has handled whether schools should open or not.

On December 30, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced primary schools would return, while secondary schools and colleges would only allow vulnerable children, children of critical workers and exam students to attend.

However, at the end of the first day back for those students who returned, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the national lockdown, seeing schools and colleges now close, with remote learning to take place until the February half-term.

The U-turn has been condemned by education leaders in Oxfordshire.

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Anne Dellar, chief executive of Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust, said: “The past few days have once again been very challenging for primary schools, with schools putting huge effort into opening safely just hours before the Government’s closure announcement.

“Many of our schools opened fully for pupils on Monday and so many children were obviously so happy to be back in class, learning and playing with their friends, so we received the full lockdown news with sadness for some, and relief for others who are operating in areas of high transmission rates and who were challenged by the prospect of operating in a safe and Covid-secure way.

“We feel very sorry for our younger pupils who went to bed expecting to come to school, but who woke to a very different scenario.

“Headteachers and school staff are once again adapting to the changing goalposts quickly and effectively, opening for the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils and delivering remote learning for all others.”

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Meanwhile, John Howson, deputy chairman of Oxfordshire County Council’s education scrutiny committee, said: “Did a Tory Government really mandate that primary children should go to school for one day in order to mix together and risk the spread of Covid and then do another U-turn.

“Why couldn’t the U-turn have taken place on Sunday night?”

Mr Howson also raised concerns about the equipment on hand for schools.

He said: “With so many tech companies locally we should be leading the way, not lagging behind.

“There should be a joint school remote learning taskforce using best resources across all schools.”

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Patrick Roach, general secretary of teachers’ union, NASUWT, said: “A national lockdown is the only credible response to the high transmissibility of the new variant.

“Limiting the spread of the virus is the only way to ensure schools can remain open safely after February half-term.

“The Government must use the period of this lockdown to develop a robust plan for education recovery that is supported by a robust system of testing led by public health teams.”

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