Wigan school to close for most pupils following staff concerns about Covid-19 safety

A Wigan primary school will close to most of its pupils next week after staff raised concerns about the safety of their work environment, amid rising Covid-19 rates.
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St Mark's primary school, in Alexandra Street, announced this evening that it would close to all pupils except Year Six, as well as children of key workers and vulnerable pupils. The changes will come into effect on Tuesday, January 5.

Headteacher Mrs Ferguson wrote a letter to parents, which was also published to the school's Facebook page. She explained that several members have staff have taken the decision to invoke an Employment Rights Act clause, which protects employees if they refuse to attend work due to health and safety concerns.

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Mrs Ferguson said the decision was made "heavy heart", adding that she "fully supports" the choices made by all members of the team.

St Mark's in Alexandra Street. Image: GoogleSt Mark's in Alexandra Street. Image: Google
St Mark's in Alexandra Street. Image: Google

The move comes amid rising Covid-19 infection rates, and concerns that it may be unsafe to allow school pupils to return to their classrooms this week.

This weekend, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the Government’s “top-down” and “blanket” approach to schools reopening should be changed to allow local head teachers and councils to take the decision themselves.

He also suggested the Government should instead consider delaying the reopening of primary schools and adopt a staggered approach, as in secondary schools.

Full letter from St Mark's:

"Dear Parents and Carers,

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"I thank you for your continued support and patience over the last few days. It has been a difficult and uncertain time for us all.

"I am sorry to have to tell you with a heavy heart that with the exception of Y6, St Mark’s will only be opening to Key Workers and Vulnerable children from Tuesday 5th January. As I am sure you are now aware, there has been continuous discussion over the last few days between the government and teaching unions about the reopening of schools. As a result, some members of staff have taken the decision to invoke section 44 of the health and safety legislation. Therefore, due to a lack of staffing capacity, we will only be able to partially open school at the start of term.

"These are decisions that have not been taken lightly by any member of staff and, as the Headteacher, I fully support decisions made by all members of my team. In the current climate, I have no doubt that every decision made by our staff has been the right one for them, the children and the school community.

"I wanted to share this information with you as soon as possible, so that you can begin to make necessary arrangements for your children from Tuesday 5th January.

"St Mark’s rationale for prioritisation:

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"At this stage we do not feel it is safe to open to school in its entirety due to the limited capacity of teaching and support staff. There would not be adequate staff to manage full classes and safeguard the children and the school community. Therefore, we cannot take any pupils unless they fall into Key Worker/ Social Worker/ EHCP/EYAR categories, or if they are a Y6 pupil.

"Therefore, prioritisation for St Mark’s CE Primary School are children of Key Workers, EHCP/EYAR children and those with a social worker. As mentioned above, we will also be open to all of the children in Year 6.

"(If your child is in receipt of an EHCP and they usually receive 1:1 support, please be aware that this may not be the usual member of staff your child works with).

"If you believe that your child should be in receipt of a key worker place, please telephone school tomorrow between the hours of 9am and 12pm. When you call, you should have to hand your child’s name, year group, your job title and sector, and be willing to email evidence of your key worker role i.e. a letter from your employer.

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"I will be in touch again with further information regarding home/remote learning and the partial re-opening of school to some children on Tuesday 5th January. I know this information has come late in the day and I apologise for this. Please can I once again thank you all for ensuring an effective home/school partnership. Your patience, support and understanding is much appreciated!

"Many thanks, stay safe,

"Mrs K A Ferguson."

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