SCHOOL chiefs today said teachers SHOULD go back to class on June 1 as the stand-off between the government and unions escalated.
Education bosses spoke out as Liverpoool’s Labour council became the first local authority to publicly defy Boris Johnson’s plans over safety fears.
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As part of the phased return to the “new normal”, the PM said primary school kids will return from the start of June.
But as the teaching unions stepped up their campaign against the plans, a string of education leaders spoke out to insist its teachers should get ready to go back to work.
Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts – which represents Academy schools across England – said: “We should start planning to reopen.”
She told the Telegraph: “The planning needs to take a risk based approach, we need to make a full assessment of the risks which relate to site capacity and number of staff.
“We need to be building parental confidence as far as possible with families. Communication with staff, with parents and with communities is crucial.”
As a row exploded between the government, teaching unions and councils, Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of Inspiration Trust which runs 14 schools in East Anglia, said headteachers should “get their act together” and “get on with it”.
And Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis trust -which has 35 primaries around England – declared he will reopen his schools from June 1.
But this morning education unions made stark warning that schools should still not open until it’s safe, and the evidence they got was weak.
Following tense talks between scientific advisers and unions, Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said: “Today’s meeting has raised more questions than answers.
“No information was provided to change the widely held view that the evidence base for opening schools from 1 June is weak.
“Nothing in the meeting provided reassurance for the deeply worried and anxious school workforce.
“The NASUWT remains clear that no school should reopen until it can demonstrate that it is safe to do so.”
The row erupted this week between hardline union chiefs and the government over their decision to reopen schools amid fears young children could spark a deadly second wave of coronavirus.
The union, which represents around 300,000 members, warned teachers will legally be able to refuse returning to the classroom if they do not get the same level of protection as other frontline staff.
Yet Health Secretary Matt Hancock tonight insisted the risk to children was lower.
He said: “The risk to children is much much lower than to anyone else in society. That means that we are able to propose going down this route of reopening schools.
“It is an incredible challenge we face with the reopening of schools.
“We have got to do it in a way that keeps the control of the virus. It seems to spare children in almost every case.”
In a further escalation in the conflict, Liverpool City Council today confirmed it will not reopen to all pupils after the city’s mayor raised safety fears.
Only the children of key workers and vulnerable children will be allowed in school from June 1, the Labour council confirmed today.
Mayor Joe Anderson earlier this week said he was “minded to resist” Mr Johnson’s partial reopening date over safety concerns.
The city and wider region has seen some of the UK’s highest infection rates for coronavirus, well above the England average.
Doncaster Council also today suggested schools there may take a similar stance, revealing it would stick to “a Doncaster-specific approach” in a pointed tweet today.
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Mr Williamson today attempted to reassure worried mums and dads, saying: “I want to reassure parents and families that we are giving schools, nurseries and other providers all the guidance and support they will need to welcome more children back in a phased way and no earlier than 1 June.
“That’s why we have engaged closely with stakeholders from across the sector throughout the past seven weeks, including the trade unions, and today we arranged a detailed briefing for them with the scientific and medical experts.”
In a further devfelopment this afternoon the British Medical Association wrote to the National Education Union offering full support over their caution about getting kids back in school in June.
And earlier this week a Kent headteacher told parents he would rather kids “retake a year than die” in his concern about children coming back to school.
Howard Fisher, head of St George’s Church of England Primary School in Sheerness, Kent, said he has heard “nothing that would put his mind his rest”.
Coronavirus fatalities in the UK have risen to least 33,800 today, including a healthy 30-year-old.
In England, the total number of Covid-19 deaths rose to 24,345 – up 186 from yesterday. Patients were aged between 15 and 99 years old and 10 had no underlying health conditions.
Under lockdown easing plans, Year one and Year six primary school pupils could return to school as early as June 1.
Secondaries will also be reopened for Year 10 and Year 12 pupils under the proposals to get England back to class.
But the plans could now be left in chaos after a government scientific advisor admitted there is a “low confidence” pupils can’t spread coronavirus.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson sets out the government’s plans for pupils to return to schools in England
The Department of Education’s chief scientific advisor, Osama Rahman, also said ministers have no idea if the move could trigger a deadly second wave.