Covid-19 Virus- Schools and Returning Pupils.

Councillor Phil and Mary Bateman with Cllr Rita Potter felt that it would be in the interest of our residents, if they shared the following advice we as Councillors have received from the City of Wolverhampton Council. This Sunday night 3rd January 2021.

1. Primary, special and nursery settings

The Council’s position is firmly that the best place for children is in schools and as such we have worked closely with all our education settings over the last nine months to prioritise this as long as it is safe to do so. As you may be aware we started local discussions yesterday in relation to our position regarding primary, special and nursery settings opening on the 4 January 2021 in light of our significantly high coronavirus rate in Wolverhampton in recent days.

Having liaised with the Regional Schools Commissioner about our concerns, we wrote formally to the Secretary of State for Education yesterday evening, requesting that Wolverhampton be reviewed under the Contingency Framework for Education and Childcare Settings so that our primary, special and nursery settings move to remote learning for the majority of pupils, other than those of critical worker parents and vulnerable pupils from the 4 January 2021. This is similar to the approach taken by a number of other local authorities with very high infection rates such as Kent and Cumbria.

We asked for a response to this request by mid-day today in order to inform a further urgent meeting. We have now been advised that our request has not been supported.

Following a further meeting between the Council Leadership, officers and Public Health this afternoon, it was agreed we would update schools with the facts regarding the epidemiology evidence in Wolverhampton to support whatever decision the Governing Bodies/Trusts may take. As you know the decision on whether to move to a remote learning model for those other than vulnerable children and children of key workers is a decision for the relevant Governing Body or Trust, not the Council. However we thought it important that any decisions made had full sight of the relevant facts namely:

1. The rate in Wolverhampton is increasing fast and there is no evidence of it slowing
2. The rate is currently at 674.7 per 100,000 as at the 31 December 2020. This rate was 337 on 24 December 2020
3. Wolverhampton’s positivity rate is at its highest point since the pandemic started – 24.3%, in line with many London boroughs
4. Over the last 2 weeks we have seen an extreme spike in Covid case numbers, far exceeding anything previously
5. Wolverhampton’s Covid case rate is seeing a significant increase across all age ranges including children
6. Currently our profile is similar to that of London and the South East 2-3 weeks ago
7. Based on the current high positivity rate and increasing overall rate, it is highly likely the new more aggressive variant is within the City

Our request to be reviewed under the Contingency Framework was based on the above public health evidence with a view to taking a preventative and proactive approach for a short period in Wolverhampton to stabilise the transmission rates. Moving to a week’s remote learning for the majority of pupils would have minimised movement and mixing of families across the city whilst enabling us to support schools in reviewing risk assessments and mobilising a dedicated testing site for school staff.

We will continue to support all our schools in whatever decision they reach as we have over the last nine months. We will continue to liaise with the Secretary of State for Education in order to escalate our concerns as well as exploring other options.


David Pattison
Director of Governance

Phil Bateman

Phil Bateman is Married to Mary and lives in Wednesfield North. He was a long serving local politician having served previously on the now defunct West Midlands County Council... read more