COVID-19: Greenwich council backs down in fight with government over closing schools due to rising coronavirus rates | Politics News

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The leader of a London borough has said he has “no choice” but to tell schools to stay open following threats of legal action from the government.

Greenwich council’s Danny Thorpe said he “cannot agree that this is the correct choice” but added: “I also cannot justify the use of public funds to fight the decision in the courts.”

It follows an order yesterday by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson that schools must stay open.

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Several schools in the capital, which is going into Tier 3 – the highest band of coronavirus restrictions from tomorrow – have said they want to move to online learning for the rest of the term due to rising COVID-19 rates.

Infections are said to be rising quickest among children aged 10-19, with the government promising to roll out mass testing to schools in some boroughs to counter the spread in the run up to Christmas.

But that is taking time and there are fears children could pass on the virus to vulnerable family members during the five day rule relaxation where people from three households can socialise at home together from 23-27 December.

Three London councils – Greenwich in the south, Islington in the north and Waltham Forest in the east – have urged schools to shut early to help curb a resurgence of cases.

And mayor Said Khan said Prime Minister Boris Johnson should consider letting all secondary schools and colleges in the city close early and allow them to re-open later in January.

But the government has resisted those calls, with Mr Williamson saying yesterday: “It is simply not in children’s best interests for schools in Greenwich, Islington or elsewhere to close their doors.”

Now Mr Thorpe has said schools in Greenwich should stay open.

“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,” he explained.

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