THREE schools in the Bradford district will begin their Christmas holidays a week early this year, in a bid to stop families having to self-isolate over the festive period.

Shibden Head Primary Academy, Thornton Primary School and Wilsden Primary School - all of which are part of Focus Trust - will close their doors on 11 December, with additional learning days being added later in the year, the trust says.

It comes after Focus Trust announced that it is to extend the Christmas break for all fifteen of its schools, in order to "safeguard the well-being" of its staff and pupils, as well as to "protect precious family time together".

The Telegraph & Argus understands, however, that the Government has been in touch with the Trust to ask it to "review its arrangements to reflect government guidance" and has expressed its "strong expectations" that all schools are to remain open until the end of the term.

The Trust's announcement comes after "detailed discussions" between its leadership team and its board, amid "growing concern" that many children, their families and staff would be forced to self-isolate throughout the traditional two-week holiday, due to COVID-19.

Focus Trust’s Chief Executive, Helen Rowland, said: “Our priority is always to safeguard the mental and physical health and well-being of our children and our staff, and every decision we make is with their best interests, and those of our local communities in mind.

“Since our schools re-opened to all pupils in September, we have followed the government guidelines which stipulate that bubble groups should isolate for a period of two weeks if exposed to, and at risk of, spreading the virus.

“Despite our robust COVID-secure arrangements and close working with HSE/Public Health since September, we’ve had to close bubbles in thirteen of our fifteen schools, meaning that 1,740 children and 375 staff have had to self-isolate - that’s 28 per cent of our children and 38 per cent of our staff.

"Just this week, we had one of our one form entry schools, with no previous cases, who now have 90 children and 10 staff isolating for two weeks – almost half the school.

“We recognise the short notice may be an issue for some families, but we hope that by taking the proactive and practical approach of extending the break, we can ensure that no one is forced to self-isolate over the holiday because of someone they have come into contact with at school.

“The time will be made up later in the school year when it is safe and practical to do so and families will be informed of the new dates as soon as possible.’’

The Department for Education has said in response that there are no current plans for schools to close or for rotas to be introduced, and that these measures would always be a "last resort."

In a statement, a government spokesperson said: “We are prioritising children’s and young people’s education and well-being by keeping nurseries, schools, colleges and universities open.

“The Chief Medical Officer remains of the view that schools should remain open, and has highlighted the damage caused by not being in education to children’s learning, development and mental health.

“There are no plans for schools to break up for Christmas early."

A parent of a pupil at one of the three schools in the Bradford district affected by the proposal has criticised Focus Trust for going "against government guidelines", while also arguing that the plans will affect childcare arrangements, hitting "single-parent families and the self-employed" the hardest.

The parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "Focus Trust has only given working parents three weeks' notice to find childcare. The decision has been made to apparently give the teachers time to self-isolate and enjoy Christmas with their families.

"These plans go against government guidelines, which say that schools should remain open. Children have already missed enough school.

"Single-parent families and the self-employed can’t just have time off - employers won’t cover this. The teachers, partners and spouses will still be working and will still be risking bringing the virus home.

"Again, this puts children’s education last and has left thousands of key worker parents without childcare, with no one to cover that cost.

"This is a blanket approach to save Christmas for one year. It has made a bad situation even worse.

"Teachers will be going out and coming home to spouses who have still worked and potentially been exposed to the virus. It’s of no benefit whatsoever and I feel it needs reviewing."