Some schools across Northern Ireland are considering closing this Friday, 14 days before Christmas, Belfast Live has been told.
Sources within the education system say a substantial numbers of parents have indicated they would prefer their children to be at home in the run up to the holidays.
And they feel rather than risking self-isolation at Christmas, early closing would give them the opportunity to better control who their children associate with than when they are in the classroom.
Many parents and some schools have indicated they are not prepared to wait much longer to get any further formal decision from Education Minister Peter Weir.
NASUWT spokesperson Justin McCamphill, said teachers are anxious for schools to remain open in January when GSCE models are underway and the Transfer test ready to be sat.
Mr McCamphill said: “Closing schools within the week is under consideration for many. We’ve heard that a number of schools may decide to close the doors on Friday and revert to home learning and we know teachers are keen to ensure classes hit the ground running in January.
“The last week or so before Christmas is not generally the most productive time for classroom teaching.
“So it means the pressure is off to a degree and parents would be able to better control who their children are mixing with in the run up to Christmas.
“In turn that may help reduce the risk of schools closing in January as has been hinted at.
“January is a vital part of the school year, it has a big impact on the year ahead and most teachers we’re speaking to feel protecting January schools’ re-opening is crucial to the curriculum.
“There’s generally a feeling of a new start at the beginning of the year, a sharper focus, the desire to get through the work and face tests and exams after the break over Christmas.
“We only need to look at the figures to see the spread of the virus amongst 11 to 19-year-olds and the breakout at Methodist College last week was another wake-up call.
“If the Education Minister decides to close schools on December 11, it’s unlikely that we’ll hear about it until the last minute and that’s a problem for planning for families who need child care.
“This situation affects different families in different ways. Some parents may want schools to remain open in December while they go back to work from Friday in the non essential retail firms and the hospitality industry.
“But we know other parents plan to vote with their feet and keep their children at home so no one will have to self-isolate over Christmas.
“Some schools will wait to hear from the Minister, others are likely to make the decision to close on Friday and announce it to parents, asking for children to work from home.”
In the seven days to Saturday, December 5, a total of 578 people aged 19 and under, tested positive for Covid 19 in Northern Ireland.
Education Minister Peter Weir said last month that he was disappointed that rumours persisted about schools closing early after his November 17 statement saying they would not.
He said on November 30: “I will once again stress that there are no plans to extend the Christmas holidays for schools.”
Mr McCamphill, himself a teacher for 19 years, said: “Schools can make their own decisions on how they operate and they are within their rights to arrange for children to learn from home and close their doors.”
-- to www.belfastlive.co.uk