Waltham Council leader calls for school to close early to all but vulnerable and keyworkers’ children

Waltham Forest schools have been advised to close their doors to almost all children as the borough faces “very serious” COVID rates.

Council leader Clare Coghill confirmed yesterday (December 14) the council was “recommending” schools close except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

The borough initially fared well during the second wave but now has a rate of infection more than 400 per 100,000 and around 200 new people testing positive each day.

The recommendation to close does not include colleges. Yesterday, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan visited Waltham Forest College to see students receive new “lateral flow tests”.

Cllr Coghill said on Monday that the borough “now has some of the highest rates of COVID-19 anywhere in the country”, noting 1,307 people tested positive last week.

She said: “This is a critical time and we believe that we need decisive action to control the spread of the virus in Waltham Forest.

“We have been speaking with primary and secondary school headteachers and teachers’ unions across the borough.

“With their support we are recommending that all schools move to online learning and only remain open for key workers’ and vulnerable children.

“We think that this should be done as soon as possible in order to prevent the spread of the virus.”

Schools can choose not to follow the advice from the council. One parent and teacher, Victoria Jech, confirmed Leytonstone School has already made the decision to close.

She tweeted: “I am grateful that Leytonstone School have made this decision.

“It places the well-being of all at the centre for both students, staff and our community and the online provision for my daughter in Yr10 has been excellent.”

Cllr Coghill recognised that the decision to close would not be taken lightly, adding: “We recognise the disruption this will cause children and their parents and guardians.”

However, she said a combination of the borough’s increasing infection rates and the relaxed restrictions around Christmas “makes the risk of infection particularly high”.

She added that the council had been “working with the Government to increase the amount of testing in the borough” and was keen for children over 11 and their carers to be tested.

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter