A petition calling on the government to move school lessons online from 9 December “to save Christmas” has been signed by more than 20,000 people.
It calls for a two-week “school lockdown” to allow staff and pupils to isolate so they can then meet elderly relatives safely over Christmas.
The petition follows a call from public service union Unison, which said that moving lessons online for two weeks would reduce the risk of families being forced to self-isolate on Christmas Day.
Coronavirus lockdown: Schools will stay open, says PM
The petition has been signed by more than 22,000 people so far – above the threshold of 10,000, which means it will get a government response.
If 100,000 people sign it, the petition will be considered for a debate in Parliament.
The idea of a two-week lockdown before Christmas has also been debated on social media by teachers.
Coronavirus: Should schools close early for Christmas?
In a poll set up by headteacher Matt Jessop, more than two-thirds of the 4,176 respondents backed the idea of schools “shutting” and moving to online learning from Friday 11 December to allow people to isolate before Christmas.
Tricky one balancing school, education, family, so important Q: Should schools shut Fri. 11th to give everyone 14 days to ‘isolate’ till 25th Dec. - safety reasons. Remote learning as can be done last week? Appreciate not a straightforward answer, just wondering! @chrisdysonHT— Matt jessop (@mejessop) November 16, 2020
The suggestion also prompted a debate about whether the government would support the idea and whether it would be practical for parents who are not working at home.
Commenting on Twitter, Heather Leatt, a multi-academy trust director of school improvement, said: “We looked at this yesterday. Concluded schools would need to shut on the Wednesday [9 December] to allow for 14 clear days before travel for Christmas Eve. Would like the government to call it though, ASAP.”
Nicole Cozens, a maths teacher, said: “What about everyone who’s not working from home, though? Key workers, etc. Such a huge effect on the economy shutting the shops before Christmas, too. Have you heard this suggested? Not saying it’s a terrible idea but I just don’t see this government doing it.”
The UK government and Parliament petitions page shows how many people have voted in each constituency of the country.
Areas of the North East of England and Kent are among the constituencies with the largest proportions of people supporting this petition so far.
The government has kept schools open during the national lockdown but has faced calls to allow schools to operate on a rota system to manage the disruption caused by Covid-19.
The Association of School and College Leaders warned that schools are operating on a “chaotic rota system by default”, with two-thirds of secondaries sending students home because of Covid.
This warning follows new government figures that show the proportion of schools with one or more pupils off self-isolating because of a coronavirus case has almost doubled in the space of a week.
School leaders in Hull, the city with the country’s highest Covid rate, also asked for the “latitude” to move to rotas but this has been rejected by the Department for Education.