COUNCILS in Bradford and Leeds have both said they do not expect all schools to re-open on June 1.

The Government has urged schools across the country to open up and allow some year groups back to classes at the start of next month.

In Bradford and Leeds, as in other parts of the country, teaching unions and politicians have raised concerns about the plans.

They fear that allowing children back to school too early could lead to a rise in Covid-19 infections.

This week Bradford Council and Leeds Council became the latest local authorities to announce they will allow schools to decide when to re-open.

Cllr Imran Khan, Bradford Council’s portfolio holder for education, employment and skills, said: “Bradford Council has no intention of directing schools to open on 1 June or to force parents to send their children back and we are committed to working in partnership with school leaders, families and trade unions so that they can make sure their schools are safe environments for our children whenever they choose to open.

“Parents will not be fined if they choose not to send their children back to school at this time.

“Obviously we will always want children to be at school so they get the best life outcomes and so that vulnerable children are safe.

“Many schools in our district have been working hard over the past two months of the pandemic to support vulnerable children and the children of key workers and these activities have gone well beyond what would normally be expected of school staff.

“Last week the Government announced that some year groups – Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 – will be able to return to school from 1 June at the earliest.

“In Bradford, we are very aware that schools will need to reopen too at some point in the future but during this pandemic keeping pupils, staff and their families safe has to be our top priority.

“We have been working closely with head teachers to establish exactly what is needed for them reopen safely. Each school is different, and we believe that head teachers know their pupils and their circumstances and are best placed to decide whether or how their schools should reopen.  Each school is carrying out a detailed risk assessment so they can establish based on evidence whether it is safe to open or not.

“We will back the schools and support whatever decisions that individual heads and governing bodies make, whether they open on a limited basis or continue to open just for vulnerable children and the children of key workers as they do now. Once schools have established what they are able to do we will work with them to make sure this information is widely available to parents.”

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council executive member for learning, skills, employment and equality, said: “At Leeds City Council, we believe that it is important for children to resume their education so they can learn and interact with their peers. However, this needs to be done in such a way that we minimise the risks to pupils, staff and parents as much as possible.

“Due to a variety of factors, it would be impossible for all schools to operate to the Government’s timetable of opening Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 from June 1. While some schools will begin to gradually expand their intake from this date, Leeds will not expect all our schools to open to all those pupils from day one.

“To decide what is feasible, we are asking schools to carry out an initial comprehensive risk assessment so that leaders can evaluate potential solutions on how they can safely and effectively accommodate eligible pupils. We want schools, in the first instance, to take a phased approach to how many pupils they take back and from when.

“Schools have different numbers of vulnerable and key worker children, different numbers of staff who will not be able to attend school in person because they or a family member are in a vulnerable category and therefore shielding, and different abilities to implement social distancing.

“We can expect therefore, that there will not be one city-wide model for the initial phased re-opening of schools. However, Leeds City Council will support schools to work towards gradually increasing pupil numbers at a pace their individual circumstances allow.”