Local flexibility needed on school openings

Councils should be given the power to close schools or nurseries where testing indicates new clusters of COVID-19, the LGA has said.

It wants local flexibility to allow some schools to take their own decisions about reopening, in consultation with their councils – for example, in communities where there is higher risk, such as those with a high proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic residents.

Being in school is vital for a child’s development and wellbeing, particularly for the most vulnerable, so councils are keen to support their local schools to get more children back as soon as possible.

Councils’ top priority is the health and safety of local communities, and any decision to reopen should be based not only on local circumstances, but the scientific evidence that underpins the Government’s advice, the LGA has said.

The Department for Education (DfE) has published an overview of the scientific advice on COVID-19 in respect of children and schools, to try to reassure parents, pupils and teachers.

The LGA is also pushing for crucial tracing data to be shared with councils, to help them understand where local outbreaks are happening and act quickly to contain them.

As first was going to press, several local authorities had already advised primary schools not to reopen or had warned that they would be opening later than the Government’s proposed 1 June start date.

Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “We know parents are anxious about sending their children back to school or nursery.

“Plans to reopen schools and early years settings must focus on reassuring parents that it will be safe for children to return to school. The safety of staff, parents and families is absolutely paramount. “Councils need to be able to close provision where testing indicates clusters of new COVID-19 cases and it is vital that schools have the resources to provide staff with necessary protective equipment, as well as soap and hand sanitiser for cleaning.” 


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