London borough councils urge schools to delay reopening

Leaders of nine London boroughs have written to the UK government, calling for official steps to reverse plans to reopen primary schools in some areas of the British capital.

All secondary schools and some primary schools in England will face delayed return when the new school term begins next week, but primary schools in 10 London boroughs are due to reopen on time.

In a letter sent to UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on Friday, the borough leaders said they were “struggling to understand the rationale” behind the idea as pupils and teachers moved between boroughs, according to a BBC report.

Primary schools in 23 London boroughs will remain closed, but schools in the City of London, Camden, Greenwich, Hackney, Haringey, Harrow, Islington, Kingston, Lambeth and Lewisham will open, the report said.

The letter called for primary school pupils across London to move to online learning until January 18, apart from vulnerable children and those of key workers.

“The omission of 10 boroughs ignores the deep interconnectedness of our city, and the many thousands of teachers and students that study or teach in one borough and live in another,” the letter said.

On Wednesday, Williamson told the House of Commons (lower house of the British Parliament) that most primary schools will open as planned on January 4, while all secondary pupils in exam years will return during the week beginning January 11.

Primary schools in a small number of areas with the highest Covid-19 infection rates will remain closed temporarily.

Calling the plans “nonsensical”, London Mayor Sadiq Khan also wrote to the UK government, asking for a “delay to all London schools opening until mid-January”.

In response, the government has said the measure would be reviewed fortnightly.

Williamson said he wants school closures to be as “short as possible”.

London and many other parts of England have already been under the highest Tier Four restrictions, which require residents in the areas to stay at home, with limited exemptions.

People are also urged to work from home when they can, and should not enter or leave those areas.