England's school inspector today accused London Labor Councils of disrupting the education of tens of thousands of children and of taking the "easy" route by ending the Christmas semester early.
Ofsted boss Amanda Spielman spoke out as London parents and children were left in limbo today after the government embroiled in a legal battle with left-wing councils and education unions to keep schools open.
End of term in the capital is in utter chaos after three Labor-led local authorities, Greenwich, Islington and Waltham Forest, decided to close all of their schools with the blessing of Mayor Sadiq Khan in growing coronavirus cases.
Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman joined the government today and said, "It's so easy to call for closings and forget about the long-term price kids pay." To put it in context: a day of national school closure that extends to a total of around 40,000 childhood years, and my concern is obviously with the children here. "
Families have sought to organize childcare in less than 24 hours as millions of London parents fear that all of the capital's 20 Labor councils will follow suit. Critics have accused officials of abandoning children after a year of massive disruptions to their schooling and questions about the quality of the online classes they are receiving.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson used the Coronavirus Act last night to force schools in a London borough to stay open against the will of the local council. Mr Williamson urged Greenwich to withdraw letters announcing that schools would close at 10 a.m. today.
If they fail to do so, Mr. Williamson can seek a court order. Disobedience could despise the council.
But last night Danny Thorpe, head of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, said it was too late to reopen schools. He said, “We are currently seeking legal advice and will respond to the government. We alerted the schools … but having received this notification shortly before 5pm it was impossible to ask the schools to change the Tuesday arrangements. "
Greenwich Council Chairman Danny Thorpe has told all schools in south east London to close on Monday evening as he warned that the situation in Covid-19 is "escalating extremely quickly". The infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants of the capital was 191.8 on December 6, compared to 158.1 in the previous week. Pictured: Infection rates in London by county week through December 6th
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson used the Coronavirus Act last night to force schools in a London borough to stay open against the will of the local council. But last night Danny Thorpe, head of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, said it was too late to reopen schools.
In north London, Islington Council asked its schools to close from Tuesday evening and not reopen until January 11th. Meanwhile, East London's Waltham Forest Council said last night it was recommending "all schools transition to online learning".
With schools split on Thursday, there seems to be little time for the dispute to be resolved before it is up for debate.
Sadiq Khan said London schools should close early and open later in January if mass tests are not available
The Department for Education (DfE) has written to all schools in Greenwich and Islington in light of what the councils said.
Minds, however, asked for more flexibility to end face-to-face lessons earlier to reduce the risk of having students and staff isolated over Christmas.
Last night was the first application of a measure called the Temporary Direction of Continuity under the Coronavirus Act.
"It's just not in the children's best interest that schools … close their doors," Williamson said.
“Schools and colleges across the country have shown incredible resilience to this pandemic – and it is thanks to the hard work of teachers and staff that millions of children and youth have benefited from face-to-face education and with their friends.
“I have always realized that legal authority is a last resort, but continuity of education is a national priority.
"So I do not hesitate to do what is right for young people and have given Greenwich Council an instruction that they must withdraw the letter to the headmasters on Sunday."
On Sunday, Council Presidents in Labor-led Greenwich, southeast London, were the first to advise schools to close and move to distance learning in the face of rising coronavirus cases.
They were followed yesterday by community leaders in Islington, north London, and then Waltham Forest, east London. In Basildon, Essex, nearly all secondary schools are now fully distance-educated.
Education officials had urged schools to ignore calls by London Mayor Sadiq Khan and local authorities to close their doors by January – despite the fact that the capital is headed for Tier 3 restrictions.
Mr Khan urged the government to consider closing all secondary schools and colleges in the capital. The increase in cases in children aged 10 to 19 has been identified as the main reason for the increase in cases in the southeast.
However, No. 10 said the Prime Minister wanted "all schools and colleges to remain open until the end of the semester on Thursday".
A senior government source told MailOnline that the intervention of Sadiq Khan and two union-backed Labor councils had more than a hint of political opportunism.
Mothers Debbie Cooper (left) and Griselda ZIko (right), both 35, in front of Eltham CofE Primary School in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, southeast London, today. Greenwich Council called for all 133 schools in the district to close starting tonight
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said the union was "happy" with Mr Khan's demands for early school closings and more tests for students.
Mr Courtney added: “We warmly welcome the decision by Greenwich Council to urge all of its schools to close for all but vulnerable children and children of key workers from Monday evening. We urge other councils to make the same decision.
What are the Tier 3 rules?
- Indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas, theaters and bowling alleys must be closed.
- Pubs, restaurants and cafes must be closed except for takeout.
- Shops, hairdressers and salons can remain open;
- Groups of six people are only allowed to meet outdoors.
- Crowds at live events are prohibited.
- People should avoid traveling into or out of Tier 3 areas unless it is inevitable.
- People from separate households cannot meet inside and the rule of six applies outside.
& # 39; The government should have planned that weeks ago. You have now begun to realize the startlingly obvious fact that transmission occurs in schools and that it can spread to families. Much more is needed to control the virus in schools and protect communities. & # 39;
When asked about Sir Keir's call to keep schools open, Mr. Khan told Sky News, “It is very reluctant for me to tell the government that they urgently need to give instructions for our schools as some schools are not safe.
"When you talk to the kids, parents, teachers, and staff, they all tell you their facility – whether it's a school or an FE college – is a place where the virus is accelerating."
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said, “It is deeply unfair to school principals, teachers, families and students to distinguish between the persistent approach of central government and increasing concerns about local infection rates. & # 39;
He added, “Although it is incredibly late now, the government must remove the threat of legal action and allow schools to make the decisions they must make on behalf of their employees and children.
"Going forward, we need to consider more nuanced responses to local infection rates and the huge disruptions affecting many schools, rather than insisting on a unified approach."
A school worker in the district said, “This has created a lot of confusion for parents. Schools will have to deal with hundreds of emails and calls tomorrow morning, adding to their already heavy workload and pressure. “Another wrote: 'This is a disaster for families in Royal Greenwich. Schools should be the last to close. Could you please provide the evidence you used in making this terrible decision? «
Historic Greenwich is one of the capital's busiest tourist attractions and a magnet for shoppers and drinkers.
One reviewer said: “Massive double standards in the game. The pubs were all open without social distance in Greenwich city center. Then there was a "tweet" on Sunday evening to close schools early within 24 hours. Another parent said, “Some of us cannot master magical childcare overnight, which we normally don't use. Even now, not all of us can use family. "
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