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Published: Thursday, 17th December 2020

Statement from the Leader of the Council, Cllr Danny Thorpe:

“On Sunday I asked all schools in the Royal Borough of Greenwich to change the way they did things in the final few days of term: to provide online lessons for some pupils and ensure that their doors remained completely open for our most vulnerable children, and those of key workers. 

I made this request in response to our borough seeing its highest rates of COVID-19 since March, with numbers doubling every four days. Infection rates are particularly high amongst young people. And whilst many children do not show symptoms, they can still put more vulnerable members of their household at risk. 

I wanted to keep children at home for a few days and make testing available for all residents whether they show symptoms or not, to ensure everyone could return to school on 4 January as planned. 

But rather than let a local authority make the right decision for its own residents, the Government threatened us with legal action and forced us to order all schools to keep their premises open for all students. 

Now the Government has finally decided that action needs to be taken. If community testing had been made available weeks ago, as I and other council leaders had asked, schools might have been able to go back as normal on 4 January.

This is another example of the Government centralising all decisions and acting too slowly, instead of letting local leaders do what’s right for their own residents. We were threatened with legal action by one department on Monday, and by Thursday a different department is asking schools to delay their reopening.

It leaves us with one-size-fits-all solutions that don’t actually work for anyone."