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U-turn as government says primary schools in Islington won’t reopen on Monday

Schools had been set to reopen on January 4 - despite nearby boroughs' staying closed

01 January, 2021 — By Harry Taylor

Education secretary Gavin Williamson

Primary schools in Islington won’t reopen as planned on Monday, as the government has said all in London will have to stay closed until January 18.

A government decision before New Year had sparked anger and confusion from councils and union officials, as some boroughs were given different orders ahead of pupils returning on January 4. Schools in Camden and Islington were told to open as normal, while in neighbouring Westminster, Brent and Barnet they were to stay closed.

Now, according to the Guardian, the Department for Education (DfE) has changed its mind after an emergency meeting on New Year’s Day, ordering a blanket closure across London.

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.”

Before Christmas the town hall had tried to close schools in the borough early amid rising Covid cases. However after meetings with the DfE, the council advised schools to stay open. Other boroughs in London had been threatened with court action over planned early closures.

On New Years’ Eve several council leaders, including Islington’s Richard Watts, had written to education secretary Gavin Williamson asking for primary schools in their boroughs to remain closed.

The letter, which was published on Twitter, said: “We ask in the strongest possible terms that your recommendation is urgently reviewed and that our primary schools are added to the list of those that are advised to move learning online, other than for vulnerable children and those of key workers, until January 18, so that together we can help stop the spread of coronavirus and save lives.”

The letter suggested that legal advice recieved by town halls suggested that the disparity in government instructions could be challenged in court.

Secondary schools will stay closed, as planned, until the middle of January. Exam year students will return on January 11, while other secondary-aged pupils will go back to face-to-face classroom learning a week after that.

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