A BRADFORD MP has called on the city’s Council to follow Liverpool’s example and keep schools closed to the majority of pupils.

Imran Hussain said the safety of pupils and school staff should take priority and the Government’s plan to allow more year groups to attend school on June 1 should be scrapped.

Bradford Council itself has warned against schools re-opening too soon as lockdown restrictions are eased.

But Government Ministers insisted over the weekend that they are acting on scientific advice and that the move is the right one.

And fellow district MP Philip Davies backed the Government saying “the longer children are away from school the greater the chance of a bigger social and opportunity divide between rich and poor which I am sure nobody wishes to see entrenched”.

Mr Hussain, the Shadow Minister for Employment Rights and Protections, said Bradford Council should follow Liverpool Council’s move to keep schools open for just disadvantaged children and those of key workers until teachers are confident it is safe.

The Government has asked nurseries and primary schools to reopen for early years, reception, year 1 and year 6 children, and secondary schools to offer face-to-face support for year 10 and 12 pupils.

Mr Hussain (Lab, Bradford East) said: “It is important for pupils to be able to go back to school as soon as possible as it is our most disadvantaged children who are missing out, but we must never compromise on the need to ensure that they and their teachers are safe when schools reopen. No parent should have to put their child in an environment that they or teachers believe is unsafe.

“If we do not put safety first, we risk creating hubs of reinfection that the Department for Education’s own Chief Scientific Advisor has been unable to rule out, and the National Education Union and others, as well as individual teachers and parents, are right to raise serious concerns over safety and the preparedness for a return of schools on 1 June.

“The Government’s approach has been too rushed and too sudden, with too much pressure placed on schools, and they are wrong to try and shut down the concerns of teachers. Instead of trying to demonise them, Ministers must engage with them constructively to deliver a dramatic scale-up of testing and develop protocols for if cases of coronavirus emerge in schools to give parents, teachers and pupils the confidence and assurances they need.

“We simply do not know enough about the impact that coronavirus will have in our classrooms and how children could act as carriers, and I fully support the NEU, the BMA and our teachers in opposing this move.

“Bradford Council needs to take the decision now to keep schools closed until it’s safe to reopen them.”

Cllr Imran Khan, the Council’s portfolio holder for education, employment and skills, said on Friday: “The safety of families, school staff and the wider communities has to be paramount.

“We are calling on the government to work in partnership with families, teachers and trade unions to ensure that schools are supported to reopen safely and with confidence.

“The worst possible outcome would be to reopen too soon, causing the infection rate to rise again and putting everyone at risk both inside and outside schools."

Dozens of comments on the T&A website and social media pages were split between those urging schools to go back and others backing Mr Hussain's stance.

Habitsu posted: "At some point there has to be a return. If there are measures in place, classrooms divided, risk assessments completed there schools should start start to open on a phased return."

But Grimper Granny said: "It is extremely difficult to teach and social distance the children in school now. We need to protect our staff.

"If we return too soon and we lose a member of staff do we claim/sue the school or government?

"My grandchildren will not be returning to school until it is safe."

The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also rejected the June 1 date - while the British Medical Association has backed the unions, saying the number of coronavirus cases needed to be “much lower”.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the re-opening was being done in “a very, very cautious and phased way” based on the best scientific advice.

He has appealed to teaching unions to work with the Government to find “practical solutions” to enable schools in England to begin re-opening.

At the daily Downing Street news conference on Saturday, he said: “I always want to talk. We want to find practical solutions to make sure that those children from that most disadvantaged background don’t lose out as a result of this crisis.

“I hope everyone is unified in that mission to deliver that.”

Talks on Friday between union representatives and government scientific advisers, intended to provide assurance about the Government’s proposals to enable children to return safely, ended inconclusively.

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, welcomed Mr Williamson’s commitment to talk, saying it was essential ministers provided the reassurance teachers were seeking.

Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, welcomed the commitment by Mr Williamson to monitor the effects of this week’s loosening of the lockdown before going ahead with other measures.

Mr Davies (Con, Shipley) said: “Imran’s comments were all about the Labour Party being in hock to the left-wing teaching unions and nothing about what is the best interests of children and parents.

“Obviously the lockdown we are in cannot last forever and it will have to be eased at some point. The government have therefore been merely setting out a roadmap for how the lockdown might end and all they have said at this stage is that with regards to schools this will not happen before the 1st June - not that it will happen on the 1st June.

“The government have also been clear that any decisions will be based on the best medical and scientific advice it receives.

“Imran needs to also consider that early years education is probably the most important in setting out a pathway for children later in life.

“Whilst many children in middle class homes may not suffer too much from being away from school at this present time, children from homes in the most deprived areas will suffer the most and it will hamper their chances in later life.

“The longer children are away from school the greater the chance of a bigger social and opportunity divide between rich and poor which I am sure nobody wishes to see entrenched.”

“It has come to something when the Labour Party is more concerned for speaking up for left-wing middle class teaching unions than making sure children from the poorest backgrounds get the best start in life. That shows more than anything how Labour have lost its way and abandoned its working class roots.”

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove yesterday issued a fresh appeal to teaching unions and to councils who have expressed concerns about the Government’s plans to begin reopening schools from next month to think again.

“The clear scientific and clinical advice is that it is safe to have schools reopen accompanied with social distancing,” he said.

“Children only have one chance at education. Over the last decade we have made significant strides in closing the closing the gap between the richest and poorest in our schools. This lockdown has put that at risk."

“If progressive countries like Denmark can be teaching children and have them back in schools, then so should we. The whole point about being a teacher is you love your job. It is a mission, a vocation, to be able to excite young minds.”

Mr Gove said that crucially the R number - the transmission rate of the disease - remained below one, the level at which experts warn Covid-19 will begin to spread again exponentially.