Schools to break up one day early for Christmas to give teachers ‘proper break’

Teachers will be given a “proper break” this Christmas as schools are told they can close early.

Ministers have said that staff can take an inset next Friday and finish the term early for the festive period.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said the extra day would allow teachers to have a “proper break” without having to engage with track and trace on Christmas Eve

Teachers are expected to be available for the first six days of the school holidays to help with contact tracing and informing families if they need to isolate, The Sun reported.

But Mr Gibb told MPs: “We are about to announce that inset days can be used on Friday December 18, even if an inset day had not been originally scheduled for that day.

"We want there to be a clear six days so that by the time we reach Christmas Eve staff can have a proper break without having to engage in the track and trace issues."

Inset days – or in-service training days – mean teachers will be in schools for professional development but pupils will be absent.

Unions have been asking for the government to give schools flexibility to switch to remote learning for the final few days of term and reduce the risk of pupils and staff having to self-isolate over Christmas.

Staff were told last week they were expected to be on call right up to December 24, so that if any coronavirus outbreaks had been reported after the school closed teachers could help with contact tracing.

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But the inset day would mean that teachers could have the day off on Christmas Eve.

Mr Gibb said that the government wanted schools to stay open until the end of term as it was the "best place for young people for their education", development and for mental health benefits.

But he added: "We want to make sure that they [school staff] can have a proper break over Christmas. We know they've been under huge stress.

"I don't think some of these senior leadership teams of schools have had a break at all since the pandemic began."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said the concession was “better than nothing” but teachers had hoped for more.

He said: "A single day is better than nothing, but it still means that school and college leaders will have to continue contact tracing in the event of positive cases through to Wednesday December 23.

"It also leaves them responsible, at very short notice, for informing families that they will need to self-isolate over the Christmas period."

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