Coronavirus: Redbridge Council suggests schools teach online

Coronavirus: Redbridge Council suggests schools teach online

Redbridge Council has become the latest local authority in London to suggest schools move to online teaching amid a rise in coronavirus cases.

It comes after Greenwich Council backed down from a similar decision when the government threatened legal action.

Schools minister Nick Gibb has also written to Islington and Waltham Forest Councils after they asked schools to close.

He said he was “deeply disappointed” by the councils’ choices.

BBC Newsnight’s Lewis Goodall said 7,000 pupils in Redbridge were self-isolating as of Monday.

Redbridge Council said it believed schools should now consider whether they could remain open for all pupils or move to remote learning if absences were high enough.

A total of 32 schools in the borough will close tomorrow and move online, the council said.

Another 25 will stay open – 12 of which are taking an extra day to decide if they will close their classrooms.

In a letter seen by the BBC, council leader Jas Athwal said: “Unfortunately, cases of Covid-19 continue to rise across the borough, and as a result, some of our schools are struggling to continue to provide the high-quality in-person teaching our children deserve.

“It is not the role of the council to close schools, but today we want to be absolutely clear – we will support our local schools if they choose to move to online learning.”

London, most of Essex and parts of Hertfordshire will move into England’s highest tier of Covid restrictions on Wednesday due to a rise in infections.

Schools in England were told they could close a day early for Christmas last week to give staff a “proper break” from identifying potential coronavirus cases.

In Basildon, where the country’s third-highest Covid rate was recorded, schools were also allowed to close early, while London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has called on secondary schools and colleges in the capital to follow suit.

The news comes after the leader of Greenwich Council said he had “no choice” but to ask schools to remain open after threats of legal action from the government.

The authority wrote to head teachers asking for classes to move online from Tuesday amid rising Covid-19 cases, but Education Secretary Gavin Williamson ordered the council to keep all schools open until the end of term.

Leaders at two other Labour-run local authorities – Waltham Forest and Islington – have also advised schools to move to online learning for the last few days of term amid rising Covid-19 rates in the capital.

Both councils told BBC London they were sticking by their decisions.

Schools Minister Mr Gibb has written to Islington and Waltham Forest asking them to reconsider and stating legal action will be considered if they do not.

The BBC understands no legal action has been taken against the local authorities.

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