By Daniel Wood – KLTV Contributor
Seven West Yorkshire schools have been banned from extending the holiday in a bid to contain coronavirus after the government revealed it is illegal to do so.
A multi-academy trust that oversees four North Kirklees primary schools were forced to quit its efforts to extend the Christmas break, as they were banned from doing so by the government.
Focus Trust had previously announced the plan to shut doors a week early. The decision was made amid growing concern that children, their families and staff could be forced to self-isolate over Christmas if they were to come into contact with someone who has tested positive.
The trust also announced that they plan to offer 190 days of education to make up for lost time.
However, the plan to close earlier has been overruled by the Department for Education (DfE), as they revealed the plan is illegal under the Coronavirus Act.
The trust has been directed to overturn the decision.
Pupils attending Birstall Primary Academy (PA), Fieldhead PA, Boothroyd PA and Thornhill Junior & Infant School will now break up for Christmas on December 17/18.
Schools in Bradford and the North West who were also planning to close earlier have been affected by the rule.
In a press statement published on its website, Focus Trust confirmed it would be overturning the decision following a “formal letter” from the DfE.
A further request for two inset days at the end of term was also rejected by the government.
Chair of the trust board, Clive Davies, and chief executive of Focus Trust, Helen Rowland, said: “All of our decisions are taken with the best interests of our children, staff and the community in mind.
“This has been very disruptive and exceptional term for all concerned, with the impact of Covid-19 being felt throughout our schools, resulting in absenteeism and staff shortages across the board.
“During our discussion on Sunday evening with the RSC we were made clear that, for the first time, that under the Coronavirus Act 2020, individual trusts have no academy freedom to make decisions for Covid-related reasons – such as setting their own term dates.”
Despite their disappointment over the matter, they have accepted the DfE’s position on the matter.
They added: “We welcome the government’s commitment to the roll out of increased and faster testing, and we hope that schools will be amongst the first to benefit from this development.
“Our full team remains committed to providing our children with a first-class education.”