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Published: Wednesday, 13th January 2021

Statement from the Leader in response to Secretary for Education

On 13 December we took the difficult decision to request that for the majority of pupils, apart from vulnerable children and children of keyworkers that schools in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, move to remote education, due to the sharp increase in cases of COVID-19 across the borough. Following a legal directive from the Government at 5pm on 14 December, we were forced to reverse the decision.  

This morning, in an interview with the Select Committee, the Secretary for Education Gavin Williamson claimed the government was unaware of the new variant emerging in southeast England before legal action was launched against the Royal Borough of Greenwich. This is simply not true: Matt Hancock made the announcement of the new variant to parliament earlier that same day. Despite this, we had no choice but to ask local schools to remain open for the wider school population, potentially putting many people at risk of catching COVID-19.  

Our top priority during the pandemic has always been to keep our communities safe, and that includes protecting the children, teachers and schools in our borough. Faced with an exponential growth in people suffering from COVID-19 in December, we were clear immediate action was required. The request to schools to move to remote education was never an easy decision or one which we took lightly. But we now know this was the right course of action.

There remain huge questions and serious concerns about how the government has been making decisions on school safety and arrangements, especially given their knowledge of the new variant, and we are continuing to push for answers. Our schools, parents and teachers deserve to know that those making decisions about them have done so with their best interests at heart.