All primary schools in London will remain closed next week, when the new term was originally scheduled to begin, in light of the rising infection rates of the CCP virus, the British government announced on Friday.
From Jan. 4, all London primary schools will be required to provide remote learning to all children, though vulnerable and children of “critical workers” will continue to attend school, the government said in a statement.
The government said it was expanding the “education contingency framework” across London as “a last resort” to help suppress the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which caused the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Children’s education and wellbeing remains a national priority. Moving further parts of London to remote education really is a last resort and a temporary solution,” Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said.
“As infection rates rise across the country, and particularly in London, we must make this move to protect our country and the NHS [National Health Service]. We will continue to keep the list of local authorities under review, and reopen classrooms as soon as we possibly can,” he said.
Williamson announced on Wednesday that the reopening of England’s secondary schools, universities, and some primary schools will be delayed to stem the spread of the virus.
Though most English primary schools will reopen on Jan. 4 as planned, he said school reopening will be delayed until at least Jan. 18 in some tier four areas, where the infection rates are highest, which included some but not all London boroughs.
But the government said on Friday it had added all remaining London boroughs to the list “in light of Covid case rates rising rapidly across the capital and ongoing engagement with London leaders and the evidence submitted.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed what he called “the right decision,” saying on Twitter that the government had “finally seen sense and u-turned.”
The National Education Union, which represents teachers and education professionals in the UK, said the government “must delay school opening nationwide” to reduce transmission.
The government put more areas under tier four, the strictest COVID-19 restrictions, on Wednesday. Three-quarters of England’s population are now under effective lockdown.
But “on the downside,” Johnson said, the new strain of the CCP virus is spreading “much faster and surging across the country.”
Lily Zhou contributed to this report.