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Preston schools left to make their own decision on whether to reopen on June 1

Posted on - 24th May, 2020 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Politics, Preston News, Schools
Sign on the gates of a school in Ashton-on-Ribble during lockdown Pic: Tony Worrall
Sign on the gates of a school in Ashton-on-Ribble during lockdown Pic: Tony Worrall

Headteachers and nursery owners in Preston have been told it is their decision whether they reopen on Monday June 1.

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The government in England has said primary schools can reopen once the half-term break at the end of May ends.

Lancashire County Council has said the decision on re-opening is one for head teachers, in consultation with governors, to make and they will support schools on the decision they make.

The government has said it wants to have reception, year one and year six pupils back in clases for a month before the summer holidays.

Private day nurseries are also considering whether they should re-open.

Many schools in the cities have remained open during the pandemic to accept the children of key workers and children classes as vulnerable.

Read more: New look Fishergate bollards to return to Preston city centre

The opposition Labour group on Lancashire County Council, as well as council leaders from across the county and including Preston City Council leader councillor Matthew Brown, have urged the county council to order schools to delay reopening.

What the county council say

Cabinet member for children, young people and schools, councillor Phillippa Williamson, said: “Our schools have been doing a magnificent job throughout the lockdown period.

“We have been having productive and detailed discussions with our schools and the teaching unions. Lancashire is a large and diverse county and the decision about how many pupils it is safe to have in a school depends on context and geography and is therefore one for individual head teachers, in consultation with their governing body.

“They are best-placed to understand the safety, welfare and education of their pupils, and we will continue to support the decisions they make

“We realise that our parents will be looking for guidance from their child’s school and that this is the most important relationship. We are aware that schools have been working closely with their parents. Parents will of course choose whether or not to send their children back to school and they will be supported in this decision by the council. The council will not be fining parents or using other enforcement if they choose not to send their children back to school.”

What opposition leaders and unions say

Leader of the Labour group, county councillor Azhar Ali, has written to the county council’s chief executive Angie Ridgewell asking the county council to take a position on schools reopening.

Cllr Ali said: “Of course as a parent I want my kids to go back but I will not be sending my kids back until safety in schools for teachers, staff and kids can be guaranteed. Teachers have been contacting worried out of their minds about their real fears that social distancing can not be maintained and therefore we could end up with a second wave of Covid-19. I have no faith in the governments promises around testing as you only need to look at the chaos around care homes.

“Lancashire County Council should be clearer in its guidance and also make clear whether head teachers and school governors would be liable to legal action if someone got infected or worse.”

The full text of the letter can be seen in councillor Ali’s tweet below, tap the letter to see it in full.

Preston City Council’s leader councillor Matthew Brown said: “Added my name to the letter to Lancashire County Council from Lancashire’s Labour leader’s and unions representing teachers and other education workers.

“It’s not safe to reopen Preston schools as planned on 1 June. Let’s only do so when we are certain it is.”

Read more: Colourful banner unveiled to key workers in Preston

We asked our readers whether they thought schools should return

What is the government guidance?

From the week commencing 1 June, the government is asking:

  • nurseries and other early year providers, including childminders, to begin welcoming back all children
  • primary schools to welcome back children in nursery (where they have them), reception, year 1 and year 6
  • secondary schools, sixth form, and further education colleges to begin some face to face support with year 10 and 12 pupils, although we do not expect these pupils to return on a full-time basis at this stage
  • all schools and childcare providers to continue to offer places to the priority groups – vulnerable children and children of critical workers – they have been supporting since the end of March
  • special schools, special post-16 institutions and hospital schools to work towards a phased return of more children and young people without a focus on specific year groups and informed by risk assessments
  • alternative provision to welcome back children in reception, year 1 and year 6 and begin some face to face support with year 10 and 11 pupils (as they have no year 1
  • This approach aims to limit numbers within schools and further education settings while ensuring that the children and young people who can benefit from attending most are able to do so.

What do you think? Should schools look to reopen? Let us know your views in the comments below

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