Under the latest coronavirus guidance, schools in West Sussex are supposed to remain open.
However several schools have asked pupils not to return today.
Whytemead Primary School in Dominion Road, Worthing, announced ‘the emergency closure of school to all pupils’ today, according to the school website.
Steyning Primary School is also closed to pupils today. It will be open to vulnerable children and the children of key workers only from January 7, according to its website.
Durrington Juniors and Infants school has announced an inset day and is closed to all pupils today. In a message on its website, the school apologised for the short notice.
Thomas A Becket Junior School said, in a letter to parents, that the school would reopen as planned tomorrow (Tuesday, January 5) – but warned it may have to close the school to some classes.
Headteacher John Gadd wrote: “I am aware that there is much anxiety regarding the infection rate locally, and this is reflected in the advice from the NEU & Unison (teaching & support staff’s unions) to its members in Tier 4 areas that they can state that they feel unsafe coming into school at the moment and working with full classes of children.
“I would like to reiterate that I share the concerns many of you have, and with the Governing Body and my senior team have amended the school’s Risk Assessment aiming to ensure everyone is as safe as they can be when they return to school.
“At the moment the advice I sent out to you via ParentMail earlier this week still stands, and school will open for the spring term on Tuesday 5th January.
“However, if any colleagues state that they feel unsafe to be in school or have tested positive for Covid I may need to close the school to some classes, who will have their learning provided remotely.
“If the school, or selected classes, do ‘close’ we will still provide face-to-face teaching for children of Critical Workers and pupils identified and agreed as vulnerable while providing remote learning for those pupils not in
Worthing Borough Councillor Beccy Cooper said parents had faced ‘a confusing few days’.
In a post on Facebook yesterday, she wrote: “For those of us with children of Primary School age, we have had a confusing few days trying to figure out whether we should get ready to send our children back to school this week.
“As I write, it looks like Primary Schools in West Sussex will remain open.
“As a Public Health Consultant and a local Councillor, I am staggered at the lack of communication facilitated by Government with Head Teachers and Unions.
“I am in complete agreement that whenever possible, schools should remain open.
“But with community infection rates rising quickly for the past few weeks, there should have been a plan in place for strategic closing of schools.
“Managing a Pandemic is difficult, but we are 12 months in now and there is no excuse for poorly considered and poorly communicated decisions.”
In a joint statement issued yesterday afternoon, West Sussex Labour county councillors urged the Conservative administration at West Sussex County Council to advise schools not to reopen today.
It comes after neighbouring authority Brighton and Hove City Council advised primary schools to move to remote learning for the majority of pupils until 18 January.
They said: “Schools should remain closed until a safer environment can be created and until the risks to children, families and staff can be effectively contained.
“The closure should apply to all children, apart from children of key workers and those recognised as the most vulnerable.
“A longer period of online learning working for all school and college students could help suppress virus levels and buy time for both the roll out of the vaccine and to put in place measures that can keep schools safer.
“We have many wonderful schools in West Sussex and we are very proud of the hard work their staff have put in during an extremely challenging time.
“We realise how important schools are for education, mental health, wellbeing and safeguarding.
“However the situation we face is unparalleled, the lives of children and staff and the wider community including parents, grandparents and carers remains our utmost priority.”
A West Sussex County Council spokesperson said: “We are working closely with all schools across West Sussex to support them with their safety measures for re-opening in line with Department for Education guidance, and to support online learning where schools are using it.
“We are aware that some West Sussex primary schools have not been able to open for face to face teaching for all pupils today as scheduled and we are working with them on opening as soon as they can with sufficient staff to ensure that pupils can be managed safely.
“We understand how concerning and frustrating this situation is for pupils, staff and families and we appreciate everyone’s cooperation and understanding.”
Most of England’s primary schools were due to open today, except for in some local authorities with high levels of coronavirus – including Hastings and Rother in Sussex.
Secondary schools are closed this week except for vulnerable and key workers’ children. Students in exam year groups will return from January 11, while all students will return on January 18.