‘No logic’: London councils hit out at school reopening plan

The government’s announcement to delay primary school reopenings in some areas has been heavily criticised in parts of southeast London.

Both Greenwich and Lewisham were not included on the list – meaning their primary schools are expected to reopen as normal next week.

This is despite both boroughs appearing to have a higher rate of Covid-19 infection than other boroughs ordered to delay their reopenings.

Around a million primary school pupils in some of the areas hardest hit by Covid-19 will not return to lessons as planned next week, while the expected staggered reopening of secondary schools in England will also be delayed.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “urgently seeking clarification as to why schools in some London boroughs have been chosen to stay open” while others “just down the road won’t”.

Other critics included Danny Thorpe, leader of Greenwich council, which was threatened with legal action by the Government earlier this month after issuing advice to schools to move to online learning for the last few days of term.

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He said in a statement: “In a case-by-case comparison, there appears to be no logic to how this list was brought together.

“Kensington and Chelsea has one of the lowest infection rates for 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.

“While we are very glad that they will benefit from these extra precautions, we can only speculate why this borough was included, yet with an infection rate more than 200 cases higher per 100,000, Royal Greenwich was not.”

He said London had been treated as “one area” throughout the pandemic, adding: “To now fragment the capital and ignore that residents are not bound by invisible borders is a massive step backwards in the boroughs’ combined efforts to fight the virus.”

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Greenwich leader Danny Thorpe

According to Covid rates compiled by the PA news agency, Greenwich had 2,176 new cases recorded in the seven days to December 26.

In comparison, areas on the list included Kensington and Chelsea, which had just 768 new cases in the same period, while Richmond upon Thames had 1,219 and Hammersmith and Fulham had 1,097.

Mr Khan said in a statement it was right to delay school reopening for the worst-hit areas, adding: “However, it seems council leaders, headteachers and governing bodies were not consulted about this decision and it will be very confusing for parents that some primaries will be open but others just down the road won’t.

“I am urgently seeking clarification as to why schools in some London boroughs have been chosen to stay open.”

A list of 50 areas where it is expected that some primary schools will not open as planned to all pupils next week was published by the Department for Education (DfE) and featured places in London, Essex, Kent, East Sussex, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.

There are 1.05 million children aged between four and 11 in these areas, according to analysis of population figures by PA.

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Education secretary Gavin Williamson made the announcement on Wednesday

The figures may include some four-year-olds who have not started school, or 11-year-olds who are no longer at primary school.

Children of key workers and vulnerable youngsters will still be able to attend lessons in primary and secondary schools.

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