No change: councils where no maintained schools are likely to meet the 1 June deadline
• Sunderland city council said there was “no rush” to open up schools further on 1 June given the relatively local high rate of Covid-19 infections. The council leader, Graeme Millar, said: “Our stance is clear, we cannot expect teachers – or children – to be in a school environment in Sunderland unless they know that it is safe for them, and there are serious question marks about that presently, based on the localised health picture in the north-east.”
• Liverpool city council suggested risk assessment work would begin only after half-term and that it was unlikely schools would be ready before the middle of June. “We will only support the schools reopening when we are satisfied that it is safe to do so,” said the city’s mayor, Joe Anderson.
• Sefton council in Merseyside said schools were unlikely to be ready before 15 June. “We therefore do not expect childcare providers or schools to adhere to government guidance in terms of timescales, or the suggested year groups, if they judge this not to be in the best interest of children.”
• Solihull council, in the West Midlands, said its schools would not be ready by the government’s deadline: “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 council said it was advising its schools against opening up on 1 June, The council’s director of public health, Deborah Harkins, said: “More children should only return to school when we are confident that it is safe. We should not put them, their families and our communities at risk.”
• Bury council said it would not open schools to more pupils on 1 June because infection levels in the north-west of England were still too high: “Bury’s schools will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.”
• Hartlepool said its schools attendance policy would not change in as a result of the government deadline: “Given that coronavirus cases locally continue to rise … [the] council has been working with schools and we have agreed they will not reopen on Monday 1 June.”
• Rochdale council said the key priority was the safety of pupils and staff. A letter from the council to parents said: “In Rochdale we are determined to do the right thing for our children, families and schools,” noting that “this may not fit with the expectations or timescale of government”.
The phased approach: some schools may open up to a wider cohort of pupils from 1 June
• Leeds city council said it would be “impossible” for all schools to meet the government’s timetable; there would not be a single “citywide model” and schools would increase pupil numbers “at a pace their individual circumstances allow”.
• Sheffield city council said schools’ detailed risk assessments around issues such as staffing levels and layout safety would dictate the pace of change. “Different schools will need to work at the right pace from them and it could mean not all schools are ready to do this on 1 June for all year groups mentioned in the government’s announcement.”
• Southampton city council said its priority was to “open schools safely, not just quickly” and that it was taking a flexible approach from 1 June: “While we all want children to be able to return once the conditions are right, we also know that every school is different.”
• Knowsley council said it would not treat 1 June as a binding deadline: “Everyone involved in education in this borough is clear: the decision to reopen schools will be taken only when it is safe to do so – and not just to meet a particular date, or to do so ‘quickly’.”
• Birmingham city council has written to parents saying schools would only open to more pupils when it was safe. It said: “We recognise that for some schools, opening to more pupils safely may not be possible on 1 June.”
• Bradford city council said it had “no intention” of directing schools to open on 1 June or to force parents to send their children back. “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.”
• Manchester city council said there would be no uniform approach across the city and that each school would work at its own pace: “It is highly unlikely that children in the government-identified priority year groups will be able to attend school full time from 1 June.”
• West Sussex county council said: “Any phased return will be linked to each school’s individual risk assessment, developed between leaders, governors and with the engagement of staff, to ensure that any phased return is managed safely for both staff and pupils.”
Too early to say: the cautious approach to the 1 June deadline
• Brighton & Hove council told parents: “Education provision in Brighton & Hove should only reopen to more children when education leaders are confident that it is safe for the children and the staff. This may not fit with the expectations or timescales outlined by the government.” The council said it was “working closely” with headteachers and unions.
• Kent county council said it was “working closely with headteachers in support of their preparations to further open schools to a wider cohort of children on Monday 1 June at the earliest.”
• Newcastle city council said it could not yet say if schools would return on 1 June: “A final decision will not be made until we are all satisfied everything is in place to enable a school to reopen safely.”
• Kirklees council’s leader, Shabir Pandor, said: “We are standing shoulder to shoulder with schools and colleges across Kirklees, working with trade unions and supporting families. We will do what’s in the best interests of all our children and families and make sure they have the best possible environment to return to school.
“It could mean some children return to school on 1 June, or it might be later. Either way, we will be guided by the evidence, not the politics.”
Schools decide: final decision rests with heads and governors
• Staffordshire county council said: “Each individual school will make the decision when to open, and will inform parents accordingly. They will also be making decisions on what school years they can safely accommodate with appropriate social distancing, how many pupils per classroom, and how to stagger the start and end of the school day.”
• Bristol city council criticised the government for making the 1 June date “a binary decision” without consulting schools. The city mayor, Marvin Rees, said: “The people best placed to lead and decide are the teachers themselves, working with their governors, communities and ourselves. We will back them and work with them to deal with the consequences of their decisions.”
• Newcastle city council said the final decision on opening schools would be one for individual schools and their governors, who would inform parents when their plans were finalised.
• Wigan council said it would support local schools whatever their decision was on the 1 June deadline: “We will continue to support all of our schools in working through what the new proposals could look like, but ultimately, each school is different, and the decision on how they reopen safely will rest with them.”
• Islington council in north London said the final decision on reopening would sit with each governing body, but warned schools against rushing to hit an arbitrary deadline. “The issue is too important to become a political football. Some recent rhetoric from government ministers suggests they are more interested in using school reopenings to score political points, rather than do what is right to keep our communities safe.”