Ian Shires

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Willenhall North Ward, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Walsall MBC Learn more

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First Tory council rejects 1 June school reopening

by Ian Shires on 20 May, 2020

Published in Local Government Chronicle 19 MAY 2020 BY 

Solihull MBC has become the first Conservative authority to say it will not reopen schools on 1 June.

The West Midlands borough joins Labour-controlled Calderdale and Bury MBCs and Liverpool City Council, and Hartlepool BC, which is under no overall control, in saying that it will not fulfil the government’s ambition for pupils in reception and years 1 and 6 to return to school at the start of next month.

Solihull’s position emerged in an email message from leader Ian Courts (Con) in which he says the “key priority” is to ensure the safety of every child and staff member.

“Schools are undertaking detailed risk assessments and putting in place a range of protective measures before they will open their doors to more pupils,” Cllr Courts writes.

“The government has the ambition of a 1 June return, but the reality in Solihull is that schools will need to use that first week in June to ensure they are completely ready for more pupils to attend.  So places may only be available from the week beginning 8 June.”

Calderdale MBC this lunchtime announced that its schools will not reopen on 1 June. Its director of public health Deborah Harkins said: “The current evidence within Calderdale indicates three of the government’s five tests are not met and unfortunately we are not assured that this will change before 1 June.  This means that we cannot advise our local schools that it will be safe to re-open yet.”

The three tests in question are confidence that the infection rate is decreasing to manageable levels, the need to have sufficient testing capacity and confidence that changes will not risk a second peak of infections, she said.

“Unfortunately at this stage we cannot be confident that we could prevent the spread of the coronavirus within our nurseries, schools or colleges and then into the wider community,” she said.

Liverpool’s director of children and young people’s services Steve Reddy today wrote to parents to say: “There is no doubt in my mind that we simply cannot reopen schools in line with the suggested timetable outlined by the government…

“All I can say at this stage is that we do not envisage primary age pupils being able to return until mid-June at the very least.”

This comes after the city’s mayor Joe Anderson (Lab) said earlier this week that he was “minded to resist” the 1 June target reopening date due to safeguarding concerns.

In a letter yesterday to local headteachers, Tamoor Tariq (Lab), Bury’s cabinet member for children’s services, schools and families, said the area faced “persistently high levels of new infection” while there are “real concerns regarding Covid-19 testing, availability of PPE, limitations on the proposed Track and Trace, and… the inconsistent level of central government support for our recovery”.

“I therefore have approval from Bury council’s cabinet to not open schools to a wider intake of pupils from 1st June,” he wrote.

He said that after consulting headteachers he intends to write to education secretary Gavin Williamson.  “I will urge him to reflect on the importance of local evidence, the local scientific advice, and the national opinion of the British Medical Association in proposing decisions which could have a dramatic impact on our lives here in Bury,” he said.

Hartlepool issued a statement on Friday, stating: “Given that coronavirus cases locally continue to rise, Hartlepool Borough Council has been working with schools and we have agreed they will not reopen on Monday 1 June.

“Whilst we recognise the importance of schools reopening, we want to be absolutely clear that we will be taking a measured and cautious approach to this.”

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