Hackney primary schools to reopen despite 'grave' Covid situation

Mayor of Hackney Phil Glanville

Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville. - Credit: Gary Manhine/Hackney Council

Hackney leaders say they see "little logic" in reopening primary schools as coronavirus cases continue to rise. 

The government announced on December 30 that it would delay the reopening of primary schools in areas with very high risk of incidence or transmission of the virus - including many London boroughs. However, Hackney is not on the list.

In a letter to Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, Mayor of Hackney Phil Glanville and education chief Cllr Anntoinette Bramble said concerns were growing about cases "rising with alarming speed" and the safety of primary schools reopening on January 4.

On Wednesday 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. 

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“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.”

The case rate per 100,000 in Hackney is 830, according to Public Health England (PHE) which puts it within the top 10 boroughs in London for Covid-19 cases and 30th in the country. 

Despite having higher case rates than boroughs like Westminster, which have been told to keep their primary schools closed, Hackney and neighbour Islington have not made the list. 

A chart showing the number of Covid-19 cases by week in Hackney and the City of London

The chart shows the number of Covid-19 cases by week in Hackney and the City of London, starting 6 March 2020, when the first case was detected in Hackney. In current week, ending on December 23, there were 830 cases per 100,000 people. - Credit: Hackney Council

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Education secretary Gavin Williamson said on December 30 that evidence about the new Covid-19 variant and rising infection rates have required "immediate adjustment" to plans for the new term. 

“The latest study we have from PHE is that Covid infections among children are triggered by changes in the community rate. The study also says that the wider impact of school closures on children’s development would be significant," he said. 

“I’m quite clear that we must continue to do all we can to keep children in school.”

Secondary school pupils in exam years are due to return on January 11, while other years will return on January 18. Vulnerable students or the children of key workers will return from Monday, January 4.

READ MORE: Parents gather to protest Hackney schools’ support staff cuts