COVID-19: Leaders of eight London boroughs call for reversal of decision to reopen primary schools

Leaders of eight London boroughs have written to the education secretary to ask him to reverse the decision to reopen primary schools in selected areas.

In the letter, the leaders say they were “struggling to understand the rationale” behind a move that ignored the “interconnectedness of our city”.

They pointed out that COVID-19 infection rates are higher in some boroughs told to reopen schools than in others where they will remain closed.

The leaders of the boroughs of Islington, Camden, Hackney, Lambeth, Lewisham, Greenwich, Haringey and Harrow signed the letter.

Schools in the City of London and Kingston will also reopen under current rules, but those in 22 other London boroughs will remain closed.

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Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has told Sky News he is

Danny Thorpe, leader of Labour-controlled Greenwich which was threatened with legal action by the government after issuing advice to schools to move to online learning for the last few days before Christmas, said: “In a case-by-case comparison, there appears to be no logic to how this list was brought together.”

He highlighted that Kensington and Chelsea “has one of the lowest infection rates of the whole of the capital, yet their children and young people are being afforded the extra protection that apparently Royal Greenwich students don’t need”.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said that primary school students being told to return next week was “nonsensical” and said he had written to the prime minister expressing his anger that local leaders were not consulted.

“This is not the way to run schools in our city or our country and it’s another example of the chaotic and shambolic way that the government has dealt with this pandemic,” he said.

Staff in boroughs where schools were reopening have expressed concern about their own safety.

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London doctor: ‘Situation is critical’

Kevin Courtney, joint leader of the National Education Union, said: “Gavin Williamson must listen to the leaders of the community, he must listen to school staff and he must listen to the general public who are all telling him that it is not safe to reopen schools on Monday.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, added: “There is obviously a huge amount of concern over how it can be safe for schools in some Tier 4 areas to open while schools in other Tier 4 areas are being told to move to remote learning. In some instances this means different approaches for schools only a few roads away from each other.”

According to COVID-19 rates compiled by PA news agency, Greenwich had 2,176 new cases recorded in the seven days to 26 December, Hackney and City of London had 2,217 and Islington had 1,499.

In comparison, Kensington and Chelsea which has been told to shut primary schools, had 768 new cases in the same period.

On Thursday, the UK recorded 55,892 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours – the highest figure on record.

The number of deaths in the last 24 hours within 28 days of a positive test was 964, bringing the total number of deaths in the UK to 73,512.


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