London schools ordered to stay open as councils say they’ll send kids home early

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The Government has ordered schools in London to stay open after two councils announced their intention to send students home early.

Greenwich council has been issued a "temporary continuity direction" by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson after saying it would close local schools earlier than December 21, the scheduled last day of term.

If the council ignores Mr Williamson's letter, it will be enforced through a High Court injunction.

Islington council, which made a similar request on Monday, has reportedly not yet received a letter from the Department for Education.

"It is simply not in children's best interests for schools in Greenwich, Islington or elsewhere to close their doors," Mr Williamson said.

"I have always been clear that using legal powers is a last resort but continuity of education is a national priority.

"That's why I won't hesitate to do what is right for young people and have issued a direction to Greenwich Council setting out that they must withdraw the letter issued to headteachers on Sunday."

It was announced today that London will enter Tier 3 – the highest level of coronavirus restrictions – this week, ahead of the Government's scheduled review of the tier system.

Hospital admissions in England are up 13%, and cases are up 14% on the previous week, with the sharpest spikes in south Wales, London and in parts of the east and south-east of England.

Greenwich council leader Danny Thorpe said on Sunday that Public Health England had advised the authority to shut all 113 schools in the Royal Borough of Greenwich as Covid-19 cases were "escalating extremely quickly".

Islington Council followed suit on Monday, advising local schools to move to online learning from this Wednesday.

London mayor Sadiq Khan has already called for all schools to close as infections rise in the city.

In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he said: "urgent consideration must…be given to closing secondary schools, sixth form and FE colleges a few days early and keeping them closed for longer after Christmas".

However the Department for Education has maintained it's their "strong expectation" that children will keep attending class regardless of rising Covid-19 cases.

Under the Coronavirus Act, officials can issue "directions" to headteachers during the pandemic, although this is understood this would only be used as a last resort.

  • London
  • Coronavirus

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