Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Yesterday we warned that the government was risking a steep drop in attendance figures if it did not help families out of the impossible situation they’re facing on whether to prioritise safety or attendance in the last week of term.
“We called for the government to act immediately, and they have responded with a compromise which permits schools to finish this term on Thursday instead of Friday. This will give families an extra day to isolate before getting together at Christmas.
“Some families and schools will still regard this as insufficient to meet their needs, and it may still force some hasty reorganisation of activities in the last week of term, which could have been avoided if the government had been more proactive. Our recommendation to give schools the flexibility to work with parents and make arrangements that best suit their individual circumstances still stands. A chaotic and disruptive end of term is still possible, especially in areas where there are large numbers of Covid cases and high levels of staff and pupil absence already.
“Just as importantly, the government has moved significantly towards our recommendations about schools’ responsibilities for ‘Track and Trace’ during the holidays. We welcome the fact that school leaders will not now be on call for the whole Christmas break, as originally demanded by government.”
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