June 'too soon' for schools to reopen, Wakefield Council leader Denise Jeffery says

Pupils should not have to return to school on June 1, the leader of Wakefield Council has said.

Monday, 18th May 2020, 12:49 pm
Updated Monday, 18th May 2020, 1:06 pm
The government wants schools to start reopening from June 1.

The government has laid out plans for children to head back into class from the beginning of next month, starting with Year 1 and Year 6 pupils.

Although it's on the proviso that the coronavirus infection rate continues to fall, councils in Liverpool and Hartlepool have both indicated they will defy the government on the issue over safety fears.

A further three councils in the north-east have indicated they also have concerns about the idea.

Councillor Jeffery said a final decision on whether or not to formally oppose the government's position would be made this week.

Wakefield leader Denise Jeffery said that the local authority would make a final decision about whether or not to follow suit this week.

But asked whether she was comfortable with the idea of pupils returning to school in Wakefield next month, she said: "I'm not really.

"I understand the children need to go back at some point but we have to think about the implications for staff and pupils.

"We have been working with the schools to how it could happen, but my personal opinion is it's too soon and it's the wrong age group they're targeting.

"I think it should be the older ones - Year 9 and Year 10 - who have GCSEs coming up, who should be first."

Teaching unions have also expressed discomfort with the idea.

Coun Jeffery said that she understood the economic argument behind the plan, as some parents will be able to swap home schooling for a return to work.

But she added: "The rate of infection here isn't the same as other places.

"We're not London. I feel it's too soon and the rest of the Labour group feel that way.

"We'll have to check what the legal position is and I know many of our schools here are academies, so we've no say over what happens with them.

"But I've been inundated with letters from parents who think that it's wrong they're going back as soon as they are."

Local Democracy Reporting Service