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.

BoroughStatusInner/Outer LondonCase rateControlPrimary schoolsPopulation density (per hectare) 2017Proportion 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
Waltham ForestClosedOuter857Lab5171.221.862.443276,200
HaveringClosedOuter1,095Con (council NOC)6122.619.338.942254,300
Barking and DagenhamClosedOuter950Lab4457.927.241.769209,000
Richmond upon ThamesClosedOuter593LD4534.420.753.526197,300
Kingston upon ThamesOpenOuter595LD3647.119.639.330175,400
Tower HamletsClosedInner917Lab70153.720.151.147304,000
Hammersmith and FulhamClosedInner587Lab37113.017.448.958185,300
Kensington and ChelseaClosedInner476Con27131.116.445.837159,000
Data: London Datastore

3 thoughts on “Still puzzled by primary school closures?

  1. I’m sure there is a logic, although I worry it’s just pettiness.

    I have seen one suggestion it’s related to testing preparedness in those boroughs, which might make sense given the range, but then you’d expect political balance and not just Labour boroughs.

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