London borough closes ALL schools: Labour leader of Greenwich council says lessons will move online for four days before Christmas break after rising Covid cases sparked alarm – despite government threat to SUE to keep classes running
- Greenwich council leader warns London borough has highest rates since March
- The south-east London borough is facing ‘exponential growth’ of Covid-19
- Schools will be closed from Monday evening and asked to move classes online
All schools in Greenwich are set to close from tomorrow as lessons move online amid a spike in Covid-19 cases – despite a Government warning to keep classes running or face legal action.
Danny Thorpe, leader of the Labour-run council, has told all schools in the south-east London borough to close four days early, warning the local Covid-19 situation was ‘escalating extremely quickly’.
In an open letter published tonight, Cllr Thorpe told residents he had instructed all schools to close from Monday evening, but did not reveal whether the closure would continue when pupils return in the New Year.
It comes as the UK recorded 18,447 further coronavirus cases today and 144 new deaths.
Yesterday it was revealed Education Secretary Gavin Williamson could apply for a High Court injunction, forcing schools to remain open in the run-up to Christmas.
Greenwich’s council leader Danny Thorpe has told all schools in the south-east London borough to close from Monday evening as he warned its Covid-19 situation was ‘escalating extremely quickly’
Despite London’s growing Covid-19 rate, there are warnings not to put the capital under Tier 3 restrictions, amid fears it could be ‘catastrophic’ for businesses in the run up to Christmas
Cllr Thorpe’s statement this evening read: ‘I have today been briefed by colleagues from Public Health England that the pandemic in Greenwich is now showing signs that we are in a period of exponential growth that demands immediate action.
‘We now have the highest rates of infection in Greenwich than at any time since March, and for these reasons I have therefore asked all schools in Greenwich to close their premises from Monday evening and move to online learning for the duration of the term, with the exception of key worker children and those with specific needs (exactly the same as in the first lockdown).’
New powers introduced through the Coronavirus Act allow the Government to issue ‘directions’ to headteachers around education provision during the pandemic.
But should schools fail to comply after being directed to remain open, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson could apply for a High Court injunction forcing them to do so.
It is understood that directions under the act would only be used as a last resort, while a court order would be sought if they were not followed.
Tonight’s announcement comes after MPs and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan warned Tier 3 restrictions would be ‘catastropic’ for the capital, causing ‘untold damage’.
In a letter seen by The Mail on Sunday, the MPs urge the Prime Minister to spare the capital because shutting it down would hurt not just Londoners, but ‘people across the nation’ who depend on the ‘wealth and prosperity generated by our great city’.
A decision on whether to plunge London into the highest lockdown before Christmas was going to the wire this weekend, with a row brewing with Ministers after police and local councils objected to plans to divide London into different tiers.
With the capital’s businesses saying tier 3 would deliver a £3 billion hit to the economy, Ministers including Michael Gove have suggested that only the outer London boroughs with the highest infection rates should go in to the top tier.