Harrow Council has written to all of the primary school head teachers in the borough and advised them to keep their schools closed next week.

Primary schools in Harrow are set to reopen to all pupils from January 4, after the borough did not appear on a government list of 23 London boroughs where schools must remain closed to the majority of pupils for the first week back.

Every London borough which borders Harrow will keep its doors shut to primary school pupils next week, with exemptions, as well as neighbouring Hertfordshire districts Watford, Three Rivers, and Hertsmere due to coronavirus rates.

Harrow Council leader Graham Henson believes Harrow should be added to the list of 23 boroughs due to his own borough's high Covid infection rate.

In a letter to head teachers, Cllr Henson said: "Harrow remains on the list of local authorities wherein primary schools are asked to remain open to pupils despite the high rates of infection in the borough.

"We are therefore writing to you to advise you, based on the available public health data, that primary schools in Harrow should move to online learning for the majority of children next week in the same way

as those schools in surrounding boroughs."

Harrow Times: Councillor Graham Henson, leader of Harrow CouncilCouncillor Graham Henson, leader of Harrow Council

Cllr Henson added it is "difficult to understand" the reasoning behind the government's decision to keep primary schools open in Harrow - and said the letter of advice is in response to concerns expressed to the

council by school leaders, governors, parents, and councillors.

According to figures published on the government dashboard, Harrow had the 14th highest Covid infection rate in London in the seven days to December 27.

There were 2,131 cases during this period, up from 1,558 the week before.

The decision to write to head teachers to urge them to teach virtually from Monday has cross-party support, the council said, and they have also been in touch with Harrow's three MP's.

The council has also spoken directly with the regional schools commissioner who has escalated the council's concerns with the government.

Harrow Times: Education Secretary Gavin Williamson delivers a statement on the return of schools after the Christmas break in EnglandEducation Secretary Gavin Williamson delivers a statement on the return of schools after the Christmas break in England

The council says it has asked its primary schools to move to online learning for the majority to help slow the spread of the virus and relieve pressure on the NHS.

Harrow Council's decision to take this matter to the Department for Education has been supported by the nine other London authorities excluded from the list, which are taking similar steps to Harrow.

Directors of childrens' services in these areas across London wrote to the Secretary of State to request that London is treated as one area with a consistent approach, while the London Directors of Public Health have also written to the Secretary of State asking for the same adjustment, as has the London Strategic Co-ordination Group.