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Education Secretary Gavin Williamson Orders Greenwich Council to keep schools open

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

The government recently instructed a London council that it must keep schools open or face legal action. After seeing an explosion of positive Covid testing results in London and other parts of the south east, and the virus running rampant in the 10-19’s (who are generally asymptomatic), Greenwich Council took the brave and bold decision to write to head teachers and ask that all schools to move classes online from Tuesday.

However, on Monday evening, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson ordered them to keep their schools open. He threatened "Using legal powers is a last resort, but continuity of education is a national priority."

London's mayor Sadiq Khan has called on secondary schools and colleges in the capital to follow suit for similar reasons, however Mr Williamson said the decision by councils such Greenwich, Islington and Waltham Forest in east London, was "not in children's best interests".

"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 head teachers on Sunday."

Here at soaring stars education we strongly believe that the councils and the London Mayor have got it right this time and closing the schools a week early and moving classes online would have been the best course of action given the circumstances. We’ll briefly outline our thoughts and position below.

· The current quarantine period for Covid -19 is 10 days. If the schools closed their doors on Tuesday (15th), there would be a reduced chance of spreading the virus to family members over the Christmas period. The dates are very pertinent here, as 10 days takes us to Christmas Day itself, a time where many family members and ‘social bubbles’ will be mixing.

· The children are generally asymptomatic or ‘silent spreaders’, adding that to the fact that there is not widespread testing in schools this increases the chance of infection.

· The rates of the spread of infection itself in the above areas. The R number is far above 1.0 in Greenwich, Waltham Forest and Islington.

· The education secretary’s decree only (supposedly) only applies to schools in labour run councils. Schools in Essex and Kent for example have been permitted closed their doors earlier with no such intervention.

· However the three councils in question all happen to be labour run, so there may be some political connotations.

· His decrees only apply to state schools. Private schools are seemingly allowed to open and close at their own discretion without any repercussions, which again disproportionally effects those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and ethic minorities, who typically do not attend these private schools and are more likely to live in households with more family members in them.

But what do you think? Do you think the schools are in the right to close early? Or do you think education secretary got this one right? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment with them below.

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