Schools ordered to stay open despite rise in Covid cases

Downing Street has insisted schools will remain open until the end of term, despite calls to close them early amid a surge in cases in London.

Greenwich and Islington councils told schools to close to all but vulnerable children and those of essential workers from Tuesday – four days earlier than scheduled.

Nearly all the secondary schools in Basildon have moved to full remote education, Essex County Council confirmed today.

The mayor of London insisted secondary schools and colleges should switch to remote learning from tomorrow and reopen later in the new year, following ‘significant outbreaks’ of Covid-19 among 10 to 19-year-olds.

But Boris Johnson’s official spokesman told the Mirror: ‘We expect schools to be open to the end of term’.

He added: ‘Regional school commissioners will work closely with local authorities, and as you would expect the Department for Education have been working closely with schools and local authorities throughout the pandemic.’

Schools have been warned they could face legal action if they allow pupils to learn remotely in the run-up to Christmas. But the PM’s spokesman refused to comment on whether schools in Islington, Greenwich or Basildon will be reprimanded.

It comes amid reports that London could be put under tier three restrictions today – two days earlier than the tier system review planned for Wednesday.

Mr Khan said it was ‘possible’ a decision could be made today and confirmed ministers were meeting today over the ‘deeply concerning’ rise in transmission rates.

Infections are soaring across the capital with the rate standing at 191.8 cases per 100,000 people on December 6 – an increase from 158.1 the previous week.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is set to address the Commons at 3.30pm with a Covid-19 update.

Sir Keir Starmer has urged leaders to try to keep schools open during the final week of term mostly because it is too short notice for parents.

However, the Labour leader suggested bringing an extra inset day forward from the new year would be ‘smart’ in order to close schools a day earlier than planned.

In a statement on Monday, an Essex County Council spokesman said: ‘As of today, eight of the nine secondary schools in Basildon district are operating a full remote education offer.

’17 primary schools out of 48 in the Basildon district, have now moved to a full remote education offer.’

It insisted no school is closed as they are offering full or partial remote learning and will remain open to vulnerable children and those of essential workers.

Islington Council leader Richard Watts confirmed he is advising all schools to switch to online learning from the end of Tuesday, amid a ‘serious and very worrying rise’ in coronavirus across London.

Schools are also advised to remain closed after the Christmas break and continue online learning until January 11.

Mr Watts: ‘We must all take action now to stop this deadly disease spreading serious illness and death to the people we love.’

Schools in England have been told that they can take an inset day on Friday so staff can have a ‘proper break’ from identifying potential Covid-19 cases.

But heads have been calling for more flexibility to end in-person teaching earlier to reduce the risk of pupils and staff having to isolate over Christmas.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

For more stories like this, check our news page.

Source: Read Full Article