Explain decision to reopen Hackney primary schools now, Council tells ministers

The Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Hackney have called on the Government to explain why it has recommended that primary schools open in the borough next week – despite ministers saying schools in areas “worst-hit” by coronavirus should stay temporarily closed.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced earlier today that secondary schools would remain closed for an extra two weeks for most pupils, with the reopening of primary schools in areas with the highest infection rates also delayed.

But a list of these areas later published did not include Hackney – despite the borough having the 30th highest infection rate in the country and in the top 10 in London. Other boroughs, such as Westminster, with far lower infection rates, were included on the list.

Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, and Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor of Hackney and Cabinet Member for Education, Young People and Children’s Social Care, have written to the Secretary of State to ask him to urgently explain the rationale behind the decision or add Hackney to the list.

They wrote:

On face value, there appears to be little logic to this, and our residents and teaching staff are already starting to express their concerns via social media and by contacting us directly. 

It is very difficult for us to reassure those parents, carers, and staff, when you have not explained the methodology used to make the decisions behind the list that you published this afternoon.

We would urge you to clearly explain that methodology at the earliest opportunity tomorrow.  For us, for our schools, and for our residents to have faith in the decisions that the Government makes, it is vital that those decisions are transparent. 

Like you, we do not want our children to miss a day more of their precious school life than is absolutely necessary, but the situation in boroughs like Hackney is now very grave, and we are extremely concerned about the potential implications of today’s decision and its impact on stopping the further spread of coronavirus and saving lives.
Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, and Deputy Mayor, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble

Read the full letter to the Education Secretary.

What was announced?

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced in the House of Commons that secondary schools across England would be closed to almost all pupils for the first two weeks of term, until 18 January. Children of key workers and vulnerable children will be allowed to attend and those in exam years 11 and 13 will return after one week, on 11 January.

Primary schools will reopen as planned on 4 January, except for those in the “worst-hit” areas on a list published by the Department for Education.

The Council will continue to seek urgent clarification from the Government for the reasons behind the decision. Parents should contact their children’s school directly for the specific plans for individual schools, and check the Hackney Education website for the latest information.