Petition Break up from school a week earlier

Breaking up a week earlier from school would give us a 2-week time frame to isolate so we can make sure we keep our families from catching COVID-19 on Christmas Day. It would make sense for us to be able to do online lessons if this would affect school time.

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This would give us the normal Christmas all of us are wanting, by also keeping our families, especially those that are vulnerable to the virus - such as the elderly - safe.

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Ministers responded

This response was given on 24 December 2020

Many families are naturally concerned about Christmas, but the legal powers to close schools depend on the risk of spreading the virus and medical advice has not supported closure on these grounds.

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The Minister recognises that many families are concerned that contact tracing, isolation or catching Covid-19 may have an impact on their plans for Christmas Day.

A States Assembly debate on school closures was held on 10 December 2020 following the lodging of Deputy Ward’s proposition P163.2020. After several hours of debate on the main proposition and two amendments, the States Assembly voted not to close schools a week early.

Notwithstanding this, any decision to close schools for Covid-19 reasons is governed by the COVID-19 (SCHOOLS AND DAY CARE OF CHILDREN) (JERSEY) REGULATIONS 2020. The Regulations require that in order to publish a notice closing schools the Minister for Education must first:

(a) consult the Council of Ministers;
(b) obtain the consent of the Minister for Health and Social Services; and
(c) be satisfied that it is necessary and proportionate, having regard to the foreseeable risk of the spread of Covid‑19 in Jersey, to publish the notice.

Additionally, the Minister for Health and Social Services must consult the Medical Officer of Health before giving any consent to the Minister for Education.

The medical advice received by the Minister for Education, the Council of Ministers and States Members, ahead of the debate, was that schools should remain open until the end of term, including noting the limited effectiveness on the spread of the virus by closing schools.

As such, having examined the issues, and based on the above steps, and further to the States Assembly having debated the matter thoroughly, it was concluded the schools should remain open.

In concluding this, practical realities have been considered, including measures within schools to promote teacher and pupil safety; and schools have also been able to make individual decisions on how they approach attendance in the run up to Christmas.

Notwithstanding all the above, the Minister for Education appreciates the concerns of parents, and teachers, and the very real challenges of trying to maintain schools physically open during the pandemic, and has asked for more work to be done in advance of the start of the Spring term.

Senator Tracey Vallois, Minister for Education

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At 5,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in the States Assembly

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