'Inundated' MPs demand answers on primary closure plans

Labour MPs demand explanation over why some London boroughs are opening primaries on Monday but not others – despite the entire capital being in Tier 4
31st December 2020, 3:51pm

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'Inundated' MPs demand answers on primary closure plans

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/inundated-mps-demand-answers-primary-closure-plans
Labour Mps Letter

More than a dozen Labour MPs have thrown their weight behind demands for the Department for Education to reveal how it decided which Tier 4 areas should keep primaries closed to the majority of pupils from next week.

The DfE announced yesterday that primaries in some of the country's worst-affected areas should remain closed on Monday. However, it has been criticised by heads and council leaders for not explaining why it has decided that only some schools within Tier 4 four areas will close - particularly across London boroughs, despite the whole city being under the tightest restrictions.

Shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry is among 15 Labour MPs who have written a letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson calling for an explanation as to why their boroughs are not included in plans to delay the start of term and stating that different approaches across London boroughs "risks confusion and diluting the public health message for Londoners".


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The letter states: "Given the pressure facing our local hospitals, the prevalence of the virus and the infection rates in our communities, the government needs to explain why our boroughs were not included in plans to delay the start of term for primary school pupils.

"We are already inundated with correspondence from concerned parents, staff and school leaders who are understandably concerned about the risks involved. They need clarity and reassurance about how decisions are being taken.

"We are also concerned that adopting a different approach for differing London boroughs risks diluting the public health message for Londoners and adding to confusion. It also fails to recognise that many school journeys in London take place across borough boundaries."

Tweeting the letter this afternoon, Ms Thornberry said: "In Islington, where the COVID infection rate grows at 58% a week, our primary schools are ordered by govt to open on 4th.  In other London boroughs, kids are told to return on 18th. Today I joined colleagues in writing to the SofS for Education to ask why".

MP letter

The NAHT school leaders' union earlier today called on the government to answer the "huge amount of concern" over why some schools in tier four areas will remain open, while others will be closed. And Greenwich and Islington councils have also made demands for an explanation over how contingency decisions were made.

The Labour MPs also state in their letter that they understand public health advice for London "called for a delayed start to the term in order to bring the dangerously high infection rate in our city under control".

A DfE spokesperson said: "In response to concerning data about the spread of coronavirus, we have implemented the contingency framework for education in a small number of areas of the country, requiring schools to provide remote learning to all but vulnerable and critical worker children and exam years.

"Decisions on which areas will be subject to the contingency framework are based on close work with PHE, the NHS, the Joint Biosecurity Centre and across government to monitor the number of new infections, positivity rates, and pressures on the NHS.

"These measures will be reviewed every two weeks, and we hope they will be in place for the shortest period possible."

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