Grimsby Minster. Not really done justice by this photo.
So am I. I couldn’t help thinking that there must be some logic I’m missing. So pulled together more data. The table below uses data the excellent London Datastore to see if there was any discernible pattern.
Short story. I still haven’t found one.
If you want to look for yourself the table below is sortable (there’s a little black sort button on each column about half-way up on the right-hand side of each header). You can sort by multiple columns by holding ‘shift’ as you click. The size of the table does make it a bit unwieldy on phones, sorry.
I have tried to explore a few different explanations. The first is the good old Inner/Outer London split. You are a bit more likely to be in an open borough if you are inner London.
I looked at population density and school age children to see if this could offer any explanation. This might be the most logical reason for openings that looks odd, since the boroughs vary enormously in size, which might result in decisions that there odd at first sight, but made sense when looking at the numbers. Again, I couldn’t see any pattern here. I did explore by trying to look at the number of schools and how that might affect things. Again, this produced no obvious answers, although that might be skewed by things like cross-border and private schools.
I also wondered about educational need. Given the government’s repeated statements of the importance of keeping children in education it’s possible factors related to educational need might have relevance. I used English proficiency or children looked after as imperfect proxies for these but, once again, there was no obvious link.
The other possibility is that the government have been looking at trends, but given their inability to spot and act on nationally rising rates during the last national lockdown I suspect it’s unlikely they can do this on a borough level.
I have tried various combinations of factors and other data, but not managed to come up with anything. It is possible, of course, that the Department for Education is using a weighted combination that I’ve not come close to. I like to think that there is some logic to it. But unless and until the criteria used are published it’s very easy to conclude the reasoning behind the decisions is not entirely based in controlling the virus.
|Borough||Status||Inner/Outer London||Case rate||Control||Primary schools||Population density (per hectare) 2017||Proportion of population aged 0-15, 2015||% of pupils whose first language is not English (2015)||Rates of Children Looked After (2016)||GLA Population Estimate 2017|
|Havering||Closed||Outer||1,095||Con (council NOC)||61||22.6||19.3||38.9||42||254,300|
|Barking and Dagenham||Closed||Outer||950||Lab||44||57.9||27.2||41.7||69||209,000|
|Richmond upon Thames||Closed||Outer||593||LD||45||34.4||20.7||53.5||26||197,300|
|Kingston upon Thames||Open||Outer||595||LD||36||47.1||19.6||39.3||30||175,400|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||Closed||Inner||587||Lab||37||113.0||17.4||48.9||58||185,300|
|Kensington and Chelsea||Closed||Inner||476||Con||27||131.1||16.4||45.8||37||159,000|
Like many I was utterly bemused by some of the decisions made on which London boroughs would see their primary schools opening in the new year.
Clearly having children in school is the best outcome but this has to be balanced against the other public health considerations. A few weeks of education that can be caught up might not be worth the life-long cost of losing a loved one. While I fully expected all school’s to be closed I wasn’t at all ready for the irrationality of the decisions taken.
You would expect some pattern, but looking at data from the London Datastore and the list of schools that are open it looks to me much more like the correlation between opening and closing is much more down to political control.
How on earth can you suggest that Redbridge, with a case rate of 1,027 per 100,000 should have it’s school’s open, while Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea, with a case rate of half that, should be closed? Or keeping Greenwich open when six of the ten boroughs with lower case rates are all closed.
There are 32 London boroughs, ten will be expected to open schools. Of those nine are Labour controlled and one Lib Dem. Not a single Conservative controlled borough is expected to open primary schools.
You would expect some incompetence from the government, but at first sight this looks much worse than than.
Update: Redbridge was omitted by the government in error (because this isn’t the sort of thing you would want to double-check before publishing). I have updated that in the list, but think the central point remains: why have places like Hackney and Haringey open when many others are closed.
|Havering||1,095||Con (council NOC)||Closed|
|Barking and Dagenham||950||Lab||Closed|
|Kingston upon Thames||595||Lib Dem||Open|
|Richmond upon Thames||593||Lib Dem||Closed|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||587||Lab||Closed|
|Kensington and Chelsea||476||Con||Closed|