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Published: Friday, 1st January 2021

Statement from the Leader regarding reopening primary schools in Royal Greenwich

Happy New Year to everyone.

Since the announcement by the Secretary of State on Wednesday 30 December that primary schools would return as normal with some exceptions, the whole team here at Royal Greenwich has been working flat out to get an explanation from the Government about why our schools are being asked to remain open, when neighbouring boroughs are not.

On 31 December, council leaders and directors of children’s services wrote to the Secretary of State to set out again why that decision didn’t make sense. You can read that letter here.

We received an unsatisfactory reply from the Department for Education at 22:55 on New Year’s Eve outlining that the Secretary of State’s decision is based on three things: seven-day case rate; the change in case rates; and pressures on the NHS. But this does not make sense either.

Royal Greenwich’s seven-day case rate has increased again and is currently at 764 cases per 100,000 people. Higher than the 706 per 100,000 figure used when the decision was taken by the government. The London borough with the lowest rate is Kensington and Chelsea. Their rate is 496 per 100,000 and yet they have been directed to close.

The rate of change in Royal Greenwich, which measures the increase of cases since a week ago, is now 19%. Other London boroughs that have been directed to close are experiencing slower rates of increase.

Finally, we have been told that pressures on the NHS have been a factor in taking this decision. We know that our local services are under huge pressure, as much as they are across the city at present. We are seeking urgent clarity on what measures have been taken into account.

Yesterday the London Association of Directors of Public Health also put out a statement. It says: “We, therefore, advocate that the principle to delay the reopening of primary schools should apply to all boroughs across London at the same time, if the measure is to have the impact of limiting transmission across London and keeping staff, children and our communities safe.

We have again written again to the Secretary of State, as we have yet to receive a response to the letter we sent yesterday alongside boroughs from across London.

We have also made a formal request to the Department for Education under the Contingency Framework (which governs which schools will remain closed) and set out the case why Royal Greenwich schools need to be treated in the same way as others in London.

We are extremely disappointed that once again, a lack of clarity and answers from the government is causing uncertainty and concern among our schools, families, carers, and undoubtedly children and young people. We are liaising closely with all headteachers and ask that all parents and families keep checking for communication from their schools, as well as on the Council website.