Islington schools have been urged to close and switch to online learning from Tuesday evening due to an increase in coronavirus cases in the capital.
The council advises schools in the North London Borough to close early before Christmas – with the exception of children of core workers and vulnerable pupils – and not to reopen until later in January.
Islington Council Chief Richard Watts said there was a “serious and very worrying increase” in the coronavirus in London.
He added, “We all must act now to prevent this deadly disease from spreading serious illness and death to the people we love.
“Following public health advice, we are advising that schools close from the end of Tuesday and switch to online learning, except for children of key workers and vulnerable children.”
Islington schools are also advised to remain closed after the Christmas holidays and to continue online learning until January 11.
Cllr Watts added: ‘This is a very difficult decision – however the public health situation in Islington and London is so dire that we must do all we can to stop this deadly virus from spreading in our community and in London. “
English schools have been told they can take a day on Friday so staff can ‘take a break’ to identify potential cases of Covid-19.
But leaders have called for more flexibility to end face-to-face instruction earlier to reduce the risk that students and staff will have to isolate themselves over Christmas.
Schools have been warned they could face legal action if they allow students to learn remotely before Christmas.
New powers introduced through the coronavirus law allow the government to give “instructions” to those responsible for providing education during the pandemic.
But if schools don’t follow instructions to stay open, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson could seek a High Court injunction requiring them to do so.
Kevin Courtney, co-secretary general of the National Education Union, said the union was “satisfied” with Mr Khan’s demands for early school closings and more testing for students.
Mr Courtney added: ‘We warmly welcome the decision of the Greenwich Council to urge all of its schools to close from Monday evening, to all but vulnerable children and children of key workers. We urge other councils to make the same decision.
“The government should have planned this a few weeks ago. They have now started to recognize the blindingly obvious fact that transmission occurs in schools and that it can spread to families. Much more is needed to control the virus in schools and to protect communities. “
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “It is deeply unfair to principals, teachers, families and students that they are caught between the approach brutal central government and rising alarm local infection rate. “
He added: “Although it is now incredibly late in the day, the government must eliminate the threat of legal action and allow schools to make the decisions they need to make on behalf of their staff and their children.
“Going forward, it must allow for more nuanced responses to local infection rates and the enormous disruption affecting many schools rather than insisting on a one-size-fits-all approach.”
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