Primary schools stay shut in areas with lower infection rates than parts of Surrey, figures show

The majority of Surrey’s districts and boroughs have infection rates higher than several areas in England where primary schools will undergo a two-week closure, latest figures show.

On Wednesday (December 30), Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced some primaries would not be opening as planned in 2021 due to high infection rates in these areas.

Fifty areas in south-east England are affected; in parts of London, Essex, Kent, East Sussex, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.

While most of England’s primary schools will return on January 4 as planned, those in the above Covid hotspots will stay shut at the start of term. The closures will be reviewed after January 13 and by January 18, Boris Johnson has said.

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Reportedly, areas were chosen based on factors such as hospital capacity and the speed of the spread as well as infection rates. However, Mr Williamson has highlighted how infection rates helped to determine the list.

The Education Secretary told MPs on Wednesday: “We know how vitally important it is for younger children to be in school for their education, well-being and wider development.

“In a small number of areas, where the infection rates are highest, we will implement our existing contingency framework such that only vulnerable children and children of critical workers will attend face to face.”

Will primary schools in Surrey close at the start of term?

None of Surrey’s primary schools are affected, despite the fact that nearly all of its districts and boroughs have infection rates higher than several of those put on the Government list.

The infection rates below are expressed as the number of new coronavirus cases recorded per 100,000 people in the seven days leading to December 26. The figures were calculated by the Press Association using data from Public Health England.

Eight areas on the Government’s list have infection rates lower than Spelthorne (669) and Tandridge (667.2).

They are Sevenoaks (657.6); Rother (628.6); Tonbridge and Malling (618.2); Richmond upon Thames (615.6); Hammersmith and Fulham (592.5); Kensington and Chelsea (491.9); Westminster (489.4); and Tunbridge Wells (448.1).

Everywhere else in Surrey, besides Runnymede, Mole Valley and Waverley, also has an infection rate higher than areas on the Government list.

This can be seen by viewing the area-by-area breakdown of infection rates below.

Breakdown of figures for Surrey

From left to right, the figures show the infection rate for the seven days leading to December 26, followed by the number of new cases in brackets for that same period.

Afterwards is the infection rate of new cases in the seven days leading to December 19, followed by the number of new cases recorded in that same period, to provide a week-on-week comparison.

Spelthorne – 669.0, (668), 489.8, (489)

Tandridge – 667.2, (588), 493.6, (435)

Epsom and Ewell – 653.6, (527), 453.9, (366)

Elmbridge – 590.7, (808), 364.8, (499)

Reigate and Banstead – 564.7, (840), 383.9, (571)

Woking – 530.8, (535), 494.1, (498)

Surrey Heath – 518.4, (463), 402.0, (359)

Guildford – 473.2, (705), 287.3, (428)

Runnymede – 447.3, (400), 400.3, (358)

Mole Valley – 426.4, (372), 302.6, (264)

Waverley – 369.7, (467), 252.5, (319)

Secondary schools

Meanwhile, secondary schools across most of England will remain closed for an extra two weeks in a bid to control the spread of Covid-19.

Mr Williamson said exam-year pupils would return a week earlier than their friends, on January 11. The time in between aims to give schools the opportunity to set up mass testing provision.

Secondary schools and colleges will remain open to vulnerable children and children of key workers during this period.

Mr Williamson told MPs: “The 1,500 military personnel committed to supporting schools and colleges will remain on task, providing virtual training and advice on establishing the testing process, with teams on standby to provide in-person support if required by schools.

“Testing will then begin the following week in earnest, with those who are in exam years at the head of the queue. This is in preparation for the full return of all year groups on January 18 in most areas.”

Surrey Live – News