The government has ordered the closing of some schools as the pandemic continues.
When will elementary schools reopen for the new school year in England?
The response until late Friday night was that most elementary schools and associated nurseries would open on January 4, but would remain closed in London and southern England’s 50 local authorities, including Kent and Essex.
However, in an about-face, the Department of Education announced that until at least Jan. 18, all London elementary schools would keep their doors locked.
Schools must remain open to distance learning and to the children of key staff and those identified as vulnerable to directly attending school.
Why did the government order the closure of certain schools and the reopening of others?
The government did not reveal the grounds on which it chose the 50 places to close the elementary school.
The government said the contingency measures would be enforced with “high rates of infection and a significant rise in seven-day cases and pressure on the NHS” in local areas.
All 50 were in Tier 4 areas, but there was no inclusion of those in Tier 4. This created uncertainty in areas with higher rates of infection, but where primary care providers were encouraged to remain open.
How did England’s local authorities respond?
Haringey Council, which has higher rates of infection than other places on the list, said it would circumvent recommendations from the government and order its elementary school to close all children except those at risk and those of key staff.
The Greenwich Borough Council chief, who was also not included in the government’s emergency plan, said, “There doesn’t seem to be any logic to how this list was compiled.”
A coalition of London councils, including Haringey and Greenwich, jointly applied to the government to request the closure of their elementary school from 4 January.
About what’s next.
The Ministry of Education had said that by 18 January it would review the decision to close schools in the 50 designated local authorities, but that move is now moot.
The next potential measures include adding more local authorities to the list of places where primary schools are to be closed, adding to the closures of secondary schools, or even broader closures across England.
The latter is a serious possibility based on empirical data, such as studies by Imperial College London on the latest version of Covid 19, B117, which showed that it would directly impact a higher proportion of under-20s.