Ministers Under Pressure Over Schools Return Date


Ministers Under Pressure Over Schools Return Date

Ministers are facing pressure from councils and teaching unions to reconsider plans to reopen English primary schools to some pupils from 1 June.

At least 11 councils have expressed concerns over safety and timing.

Teaching union NASUWT said it remained “unconvinced” reopening schools was “appropriate or practicable”.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said No 10 was taking all concerns “very seriously”.

He told BBC Breakfast that 1 June was “an important date for everyone to work towards” but he said the government accepted there may be “issues” from employers that need to be addressed “which might not mean that we’ll see a uniform approach”.

For most pupils, schools have been closed since 20 March.

From 1 June, children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in England will be able to return to school if infection rates and the government’s other tests at the time allow it. England is the only UK nation to set a return date so far.

Schools in Wales will not reopen on 1 June, while those in Scotland and Northern Ireland may not restart before the summer holidays.

But on Tuesday, Calderdale Council, in West Yorkshire, followed Bury, Liverpool and Hartlepool and advised its schools against wider reopening.

Other local authorities expressed concern:

  • Conservative-led Solihull Council warned some school places may not be ready for the first week of June.
  • Manchester Council said its schools will have to “work at their own pace” to gradually increase numbers
  • Birmingham City Council said it may not be possible for some schools to safely open to more pupils by 1 JuneA number of the 153 English local authorities have acknowledged safety concerns but have not urged all their schools to reject the proposed timeframe.
  • have the freedom to make their own decision, unlike the two thirds of primary schools supported by local authorities.

    Emma Knights, the chief executive of the National Governance Association, which advises school governors, told the BBC it would be hard for governors to ignore the position of their local authorities.


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  • She said as councils might be legally judged the employers of school staff, governors would need a very strong reason to make a different decision.

    The decision to begin reopening schools came after the reproduction, or R number – the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to, on average - came down across every part of the UK.

    But multiple research groups, including those at the University of Cambridge, show it varies across the country – it has come down most in London but is higher in the north-east of England.

Ministers Under Pressure Over Schools Return Date


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