Leicester head teacher 'only found out about lockdown school closures on the news'

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Shoppers wearing PPE walk in the centre of Leicester as the city goes into lockdown. (Getty)

A head teacher in Leicester has claimed he only discovered he would have to close down his school again after watching the news.

Liam Powell, who works at the Manor High School in the city, discovered that plans for the rest of the summer term would have to change – just hours after he held a staff meeting on Monday.

Despite the school being outside of the Leicester boundary, it is still included in the local lockdown, following a spike of cases in the city.

Powell told The Times that changes to the way the school works in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have only been made harder by the shutdown.

He said: “It takes months of timetabling to get right, and you have to recruit according to the timetable… it’s also hard to get information by public announcement – we found out at 9.30pm on Monday that the schools would close, from the news.”

The school closures come as police said they may stop and fine Leicester residents attempting to leave the city at the weekend to travel to nearby areas as pubs and restaurants reopen.

One hundred days after restrictions came into force across the country, ministers are now facing questions over whether they were too slow to act following a flare-up in the East Midlands city.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said people in Leicester were "crying out" for answers and suggested the government should have moved quicker.

Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby criticised the government and Public Health England for delays in sharing case and testing data which showed how the disease was spreading.

And Chaand Nagpaul, council chairman at the British Medical Association, said: "The prime minister has talked about a 'whack a mole' strategy to tackle local outbreaks, but this is no use if the people leading the response on the ground – be they public health teams or local leaders – are not given the most accurate up-to-date data possible.

An NHS public safety message in Leicester after health secretary Matt Hancock imposed a local lockdown. (PA)

"This is crucial to allow swift action and to protect lives and the health service, and something that is not happening right now.”

Sir Chris Ham, former chief executive of the King's Fund, wrote in the British Medical Journal's opinion section: "Even at this stage, it is not too late for the United Kingdom to align more closely with countries like Germany where regional and local leaders have played a significant role in limiting the impact of COVID-19 on the public's health.

"Local leaders, including devolved governments and elected mayors, are much better placed than the Westminster government to engage their communities in limiting and responding to future outbreaks.”

A member of the armed forces sprays disinfectant at a station set up for the testing for COVID-19 in Spinney Hill Park in Leicester. (Getty)

Boris Johnson has paid tribute to the people in the city for their "forbearance" in accepting the return of controls including the shutting of non-essential shops and the closure of schools to most children.

There was frustration, however, among businesses at having to turn away customers just as the rest of England was preparing for a further opening up with the return of pubs, restaurants and cinemas on Saturday.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said the government had no choice but to impose a city-wide lockdown after a series of targeted measures – including working with factories which had seen a spike in cases – failed to halt the spread.