Schools in Liverpool will not reopen on 1 June despite Boris Johnson’s plans to ease lockdown, officials have said.
Only children of key workers and vulnerable children will be allowed in school in the city from June 1, which was suggested by the government as when schools will start to reopen to all children.
The announcement comes after Liverpool’s mayor Joe Anderson raised safety fears over children going back into classes, saying he was “minded to resist” the suggested 1 June partial reopening date for specified years.
Liverpool City Council said the reopening of schools would be staggered, with pupils only allowed to return when headteachers, governing bodies, council officials and unions deem safe.
Steve Reddy, the council’s Director of Children and Young People’s Services, said on Friday he was writing to all parents to tell them not to expect schools to reopen for everyone on 1 June.
In the letter he said: “Our guiding principle is that schools can only reopen to other pupils when it is safe to do so and not a moment before.
“Only once we can be sure that schools are safe for both children and staff will they be able to open to more children. The safety of your child, and of our staff, is our top priority.
“Some parents have asked me when schools may fully reopen. This will vary from school to school. Each headteacher has to rigorously assess the risks of fully reopening for their particular school.
“The size and layout of the school building, and the availability of staff, will affect their assessments. It will be the case that the schools will do it differently. Your child’s headteacher will be in touch with you in due course.”
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He added: “We will not be pressuring anyone to send their child to school since you know your children and personal situation best. Once you have all the information, you will be able to make an informed decision.
“The Government has made it clear they will not be fining parents for not sending children into school during this term.
“However, if you are supported by a social worker and your social worker advises that your child needs to attend school, it is important you follow this advice.”
Liverpool and the wider region has seen some of the UK’s highest infection rates for coronavirus.
Announcing his plans to ease lockdown restrictions on Sunday, the Prime Minister laid out plans for a phased return of schools, saying reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils “may” be able to return on 1 June at the earliest.
He also expressed his desire for secondary school pupils with exams next year to “get at least some time with their teachers before the holidays”.
But his plans have been criticised by teaching unions, with one branding them “nothing short of reckless”.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) said: “We think that the announcement by the government that schools may reopen from 1 June with reception and years 1 and 6 is nothing short of reckless.
“Coronavirus continues to ravage communities in the UK and the rate of COVID-19 infection is still far too great for the wider opening of our schools.”
She added: “If schools are re-opened to blatant breaches of health and safety, we will strongly support our members who take steps to protect their pupils, their colleagues and their families.
“The worst outcome of any wider re-opening of schools is a second spike of COVID-19 infection.”
Patrick Roach, general secretary of the teachers’ union NASUWT, said the government’s announcement “risks thousands of schools rushing to make decisions about how best to safeguard the health and safety of children and staff in the absence of any clear national guidance”.