London council leaders have criticised the government’s list of areas where primary schools will not open to pupils next week as having “no logic”.
Around a million primary school pupils in some of the areas hardest hit by Covid-19 will not return to lessons as planned next week, while the expected staggered reopening of secondary schools in England will also be delayed.
But the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said he was “urgently seeking clarification as to why schools in some London boroughs have been chosen to stay open” while others “just down the road won’t”.
Other critics included Danny Thorpe, leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, which was threatened with legal action by the government earlier this month after issuing advice to schools to move to online learning for the last few days of term.
He said in a statement: “In a case-by-case comparison, there appears to be no logic to how this list was brought together.”
London had been treated as “one area” throughout the pandemic, he said, adding: “To now fragment the capital and ignore that residents are not bound by invisible borders is a massive step backwards in the boroughs’ combined efforts to fight the virus.”
Richard Watts, leader of Islington council in north London, said it was “deeply frustrating” that the government made this announcement at the last minute, just days before the start of term, weeks after it was clear coronavirus cases were surging in London.
A list of 50 areas where it is expected that some primary schools will not open as planned to all pupils next week was published by the Department for Education (DfE) and featured places in London, Essex, Kent, East Sussex, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.
Children of key workers and vulnerable youngsters will still be able to attend lessons in primary and secondary schools.