Gavin Williamson forces Greenwich schools to reopen despite ‘exponential growth’ in Covid-19 cases

The Leader of Greenwich Council has been forced to reopen schools in the borough after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson threatened legal action.

It comes after most schools in the borough of south-east London closed on Monday, with parents and carers told not to bring their children for in-person learning until January.

The Council’s initial decision was prompted by a briefing given to its leadership by Public Health England, which said there had been an “exponential growth” of coronavirus cases in the borough.

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Writing to headteachers, the Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Cllr Danny Thorpe, said the issue was “honestly one of the most difficult questions I have wrestled with during all my time as leader”.

The Leader of Greenwich Council has been forced to reopen schools in the borough after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson threatened legal action.
The Leader of Greenwich Council has been forced to reopen schools in the borough after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson threatened legal action.

He emphasised to parents that Greenwich now had the highest rate of infection at any time since the start of the pandemic.

Teachers had planned to continue educating their pupils via online learning.

But in a letter penned by Gavin Williamson on Monday, the Education Secretary threatened to sue the Council if it did not reopen schools fully.

Mr Williamson gave council leadership a deadline of 10am on Tuesday morning to withdraw letters sent to parents and headteachers announcing the closures.

In a statement issued this morning, Cllr Thorpe said: “Yesterday the Council received a directive from the Government that schools in the borough must remain fully open until the end of term.

“With Covid-19 cases rising rapidly in the borough, I cannot agree that this is the correct choice for our schools.

“However, I also cannot justify the use of public funds to fight the decision in the courts.

“Consequently, I have no choice but to ask our schools to keep their doors open to all students rather than just continuing with online learning.

“From the start of this pandemic, both myself and the whole Council have worked tirelessly to support our whole school community.

“The action we took on Sunday was based solely on doing the right thing for our borough, not a protracted legal argument with the Government, which absolutely nobody needs at the end of an extremely difficult term.”

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