A third council in England has made the decision not to reopen schools next month, arguing that the risk to students and staff is “unacceptable”.
The decision from leaders at Bury Council in Greater Manchester goes against Government advice to start a phased reopening of schools from June 1.
Outlining the reasons behind the decision, Bury Council wrote to headteachers to say the reopening of schools would “pose an unacceptable risk to pupils, staff and communities of vulnerable people”.
Councillor Tamoor Tariq said: “As the lead member for children’s services, schools and families, I feel the heavy responsibility of protecting our education communities; and the wider community.
“I therefore have approval from Bury Council’s Cabinet to not open schools to a wider intake of pupils from June 1.
“I further intend, to lobby our case for a delayed, and more planned restart, with central government through the Secretary of State for Education.
“We will commit to regularly review this decision if there is clear evidence to suggest any changes around Covid-19 infection rates or if the government brings forward different direction or guidance than it has done currently affecting education.”
It is now up to each governing body or trust in the local authority area to decide whether it agrees with the council’s move or if it will reopen classrooms regardless.
A statement said: “Whilst we recognise the importance of schools re-opening, we want to be absolutely clear that we will be taking a measured and cautious approach to this.
“We continue to work with schools to put in place appropriate measures to help keep children and staff safe when a phased re-opening is possible.”
Liverpool Council also said that the city’s schools will only be open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers on June 1.
Steve Reddy, director of young people’s services for the council, said in a letter to parents: “Some parents have asked me when schools may fully re-open. This will vary from school to school.
“Each headteacher has to rigorously assess the risks of fully re-opening for their particular school.”
It comes as a top Government scientist suggested that children do not pass coronavirus on to adults as much as they do with the flu.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said it does not seem that children are “high-output transmitters” of Covid-19.
He said: “The experts have already had a look at this and formed a conclusion that unlike influenza, unlike flu, where we are very clear that children drive transmission in the community to adults, it really does not seem to be the same kind of signal with Covid-19, that children are not these kind of big high output transmitters as they are with flu.”
He also said that most children have only “extremely mild” Covid-19 symptoms and the infection rate among them is “about the same” as in adults, but “possibly a little lower” in younger aged children.
The comments came as the row over when schools in England should reopen rages on.
Chief executives of academy chains have said schools must reopen soon to avoid “irreparable” damage to vulnerable children, but union bosses say more scientific evidence is needed to show it is safe.
The latest guidance from education unions says teachers and support staff should ask dozens of questions about safety before schools decide to open their doors to more pupils.
A planning guide – from the National Education Union (NEU), Unite, Unison and GMB – says it seems “extremely unlikely” that the circumstances nationally will allow a wider reopening of schools on June 1.
But the UK Government has said reopening schools safely is important for children’s development and wellbeing.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “Plans for a phased return of some year groups from June 1, at the earliest, are based on the best scientific and medical advice.
“The welfare of children and staff has been at the heart of all decision making.
“We have engaged closely with the unions throughout the past eight weeks, including organising for them to hear directly from the scientific experts last week, and will continue to do so, including to develop further guidance if required.”