The Leader of Greenwich Council has written to headteachers in the London borough advising them that they must ignore his previous direction to move lessons online until the Christmas holidays start on Thursday. Leader Dan Thorpe outlined that despite not agreeing with the decision, he had no choice in light of legal threats from the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.
As previously reported, schools in the Royal Borough of Greenwich had been due to move lessons online from today for all pupils except those of key workers and vulnerable families. The decision was taken in light of the rapid rise in cases throughout the Royal Borough, and also because of the high number of pupils and teachers already absent due to having to self-isolate.
However, shortly before 5pm last night, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson used powers vested in him by The Coronavirus Act to direct the Council to keep schools open.
After taking legal advice and weighing up the options, the council have decided to follow the Government direction, not because they believe it to be correct, but due to the cost of ant legal challenge.
Writing on Twitter to explain the situation, Leader of the Labour Council, Dan Thorpe said:
“Following the Government’s legal direction, here is an open letter to families in #greenwich. My main priority has always been children & families across @Royal_Greenwich not a courtroom battle with the Government, and I acted based on data that shows rising cases of #covid19”
Thorpe also outlined the additional testing capacity offered to all local residents in the Borough.
“I’m delighted that yesterday the Government changed the rules of testing locally here in #Greenwich & I can now offer more support for children, families & teachers in @Royal_Greenwich – that is something I’ve consistently campaigned for & will make a huge difference locally.”
Under new arrangements offered by the Government in Westminster, any resident in Greenwich can request a COVID-19 test whether they have symptoms or not.
It is yet to be seen how many pupils will end up returning to school tomorrow as many parents had already made arrangements for childcare, not to mention Schools close for Christmas on Thursday.
The main issue coming out of this saga has been that; cash strapped Local Authorities who believe they are acting in the best interests of their residents, can be overruled by a Central Government intent in keeping all state schools open, regardless of local virus levels.
It is worth mentioning that Private Schools such as Eton, closed for Christmas last week due to the fear the virus could disrupt Xmas plans. Under the Coronavirus Act, the Education Secretary doesn’t have the power to force private schools to remain open. Needless to say, he’s not criticized private schools who have closed.
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