Lambeth council slams Government after primary school closures decision

By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter

The cabinet lead for children and young people at Lambeth council has slammed the Government after it U-turned on primary school closures just before the new term. 

The Government initially planned to allow primary schools in nine London boroughs to reopen on January 4, including Lambeth, while the rest of the boroughs would keep them closed. 

But the councils of the boroughs due to open criticised the plans and said there was “no logic” in it. 

At the time Lambeth had a higher Covid-19 infection rate than its neighbour Southwark, which was not in the list of nine boroughs.  

On January 1 the Government announced that all primary schools in the capital would remain closed “following a further review of the transmission rates”. 

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Children’s education and wellbeing remains a national priority.

“Moving further parts of London to remote education really is a last resort and a temporary solution. 

“As infection rates rise across the country, and particularly in London, we must make this move to protect our country and the NHS.  

“We will continue keep the list of local authorities under review, and reopen classrooms as soon as we possibly can.” 

But Cllr Ed Davie, Lambeth’s cabinet member for children and young people, criticised the late notice.

“[The] Government gave Lambeth primary schools 60 hours over a bank holiday weekend to prepare for remote learning. 

“Johnson and his ministers’ incompetence and negligence is thrown into sharp relief by our schools’ skill and dedication,” he said. 

He said throughout the pandemic the council has sought to keep people safe and, where possible, children in school.  

“We know that school is usually the best place for children and that keeping them at home at short notice is difficult for many families with other work and caring commitments. 

“However, with Covid-19 infection rates in Lambeth and across London now dangerously high the government’s initial decision to reopen Lambeth schools but not those in neighbouring boroughs did not make sense.  

“It was a decision they took without consulting local communities, schools and councils and one they have had to reverse as the evidence clearly showed it was unsafe and inconsistent. 

“We are relieved the government has now listened and would encourage better, earlier engagement with local communities in the future,” he said.

The changes mean that primary schools in the capital will remain closed except to children of critical workers and vulnerable children until at least 18 January. 

As it stands secondary schools across England are closed to almost all pupils until January 18, except those taking exams in 2021 who are expected to start on January 11.  

However it is unclear what will actually happen – the National Education Union (NEU) has called for all schools across England to be shut, while a full national lockdown is a possibility in the near future.


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