THE government has been criticised after “failing to move” on school closures after the Christmas break.

Several schools across the county decided not to reopen after the holidays amid concerns over Coronavirus.

The government previously said it wanted “classrooms to reopen wherever possible” before the new lockdown was announced last night.

Cllr Keith House, inset, opposition leader at the county council, said the government let down “parents, teachers and young people” by “failing to move schools to online learning”.

He added: “As always it is too little too late. Some councils have got their act together. But Hampshire has failed its leadership test and hidden under the duvet.”

Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead said the  government’s decision making on schools  was  “chaotic and last minute”.

“This has led to the onus and the pressure on whether to close schools put on headteachers and teachers themselves. It’s led to a lot of anxiety among both school staff and parents which is unacceptable,” he added.

But some schools in Hampshire decided to  stay closed on Monday due to staff shortages and concerns over the new variant of Covid-19.

Southampton City Council said it “recognised the concerns of teachers and parents” and it would not issue fines to families who keep their children at home.

Cllr Keith Mans, leader of Hampshire County Council, said he had contacted the government.

Royston Smith, MP for Southampton Itchen, said: “The government made it clear schools should be open, schools and unions decided at the 11th hour to close schools. Most schools have put in place safety measures. Those schools will continue to operate for key workers in any event.”

Southampton City Council said it advised schools to prioritise education for vulnerable pupils and children of key workers.

City councillor Satvir Kaur, who is also the Chair of Governors for Maytree Infant School in Derby Road, said: “A chaotic and confused approach from the Government has not helped. If education is a priority for this Government, then I would like to see them prioritise teachers and support workers in the vaccine rollout .”

Cllr Roz Chadd, executive member for education at the county council, said “the vast majority” of Hampshire schools opened on Monday in line with the government guidance at the time. She added: “Ahead of the return to school after the Christmas holidays, all schools will have reviewed their risk assessments and the most up-to-date Government guidance and put in place measures to help to prevent the spread of infection while pupils and staff are in school.”

The Department for Education was approached for comment.