Rachel Reeves has declared that “schools should be the last thing to close” in the coronavirus pandemic due to the impact on children’s learning following the decision by Greenwich Council to ask schools in the area to close.
In a Sky News interview this morning, the Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster told viewers that the government needs to work with local authorities to “put in place what is needed to enable the schools to stay open”.
Reeves said: “Every council has to take decisions for their local area but the Labour leadership nationally has been very clear – that schools should be the last thing to close, after everything else because children’s education has been so disrupted…
“It is really tough for young people in terms of falling behind academically but also the mental health of our young people and those bonds of friendship that are formed at schools so we don’t want schools closing.”
She added that Labour wants central government to work much more closely with schools in the pandemic and deliver on promised support such as the provision of mass testing in school settings.
Asked what Labour would do in relation to the situation in Greenwich, Reeves said: “I would urge government to work with the local authority in Greenwich and put in place what is needed to enable the schools to stay open…
“For example, mass testing would be really helpful because that’s something the government has promised but hasn’t been delivered.
“Also, sorting out the test, trace and isolate system because one of the reasons we’ve struggled to get on top of this virus and stay on top of it is because the outsourced test and trace model just isn’t working.
“And still, again I would say to government, give local authorities, give Greenwich Council and other local authorities more powers over those test and trace systems so that they work better.”
Asked why Keir Starmer does not “pick up the phone” and speak to the Greenwich Council leader, Reeves said: “The leader of Greenwich Council is responsible for decisions in that local authority rather than the leader of the Labour Party.”
“Schools should be the last thing to close.”
Shadow cabinet minister @RachelReevesMP responds to the news that a Labour run council will close schools in the London Borough of Greenwich, from the end of today.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) December 14, 2020
London’s Greenwich Council decided to ask schools in the area to shut, with Labour council leader Danny Thorpe explaining that the borough was undergoing a period of “exponential growth” in coronavirus cases.
London mayor Sadiq Khan has called on the Prime Minister to consider closing secondary schools early and for a longer period over Christmas, amid expectations that London will be bumped up to Tier 3 restrictions this week.
The Labour mayor has written to Boris Johnson with London Councils chair Georgia Gould to express concern over the rise in coronavirus cases in the capital and the need for extra support for workers and businesses.
The government is set to review coronavirus tier allocations on Wednesday, December 16th. It is expected that the results will be implemented from 19th, before five-day Christmas bubbles are allowed between 23rd and 27th.