Majority of primary schools in St Helens will not welcome more children on June 1

The majority of primary schools in St Helens will not be welcoming more children from Monday, St Helens Council has confirmed.

Sunday, 31st May 2020, 10:12 am
Updated Sunday, 31st May 2020, 10:14 am
A council spokesman said 36 schools are expected to be opened by June 15.

Many schools and early learning providers have remained open during the coronavirus crisis for the children of key workers.

Boris Johnson unveiled plans earlier this month for primary schools in England to welcome back children in key transition years – nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6, from June 1.

Ministers have previously said schools would only reopen to more children if the government’s five tests are met – which the Prime Minister says is now the case.

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The National Education Union (NEU) has outlined its own five tests it thinks the government must meet before moving to the further opening of schools.

Locally, St Helens Council has it will support schools to make whatever decision they make based on their individual circumstances.

The council said it has been made aware that 12 primary schools that will be expanding school provision to accommodate pupils from the key year groups outlined by the government.

A council spokesman said 36 schools are expected to be opened by June 15.

Parents will not be penalised if their child does not attend school.

Coun Sue Murphy, cabinet member for developing young people, said: “We are supporting schools to take the necessary steps in order to be able to extend their opening to reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils.

“With each school there are different issues and decisions to take into account, such as the current demand for space for key worker children and the physical size of the building, before they can reopen so we will support schools to decide when they are ready to expand classes.

“We are working closely with school governing bodies, staff and parents to help them prepare for more pupils returning to school and they are doing all they can to make sure they keep pupils safe during these unprecedented times.”

Last week, St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Newton-le-Willows wrote to parents, warning they felt it was “not safe” to welcome back more children at this time.

The letter, which was signed by executive headteacher Darren McCann and chair of governors Vanessa Wells, said the school “cannot be pushed into welcoming back more children before it is safe to do so”

“Since the Prime Minister’s announcement on May 10th proposing schools extend their opening to key workers, vulnerable children, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 and then subsequently nursery, school has been investing a huge amount of time and effort into how we could facilitate this,” the letter said.

“We must be very clear, we all miss your children, desperately.

“We want to see their smiles and hear their laughter but our duty is and always has been to keep your children safe.

“We cannot be pushed into welcoming back more children before it is safe to do so.”

St Mary’s governing body has agreed that from June 1, it will maintain its current provision for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

The letter said the decision was made following a number of meetings over the past fortnight.

“This position will be reviewed regularly and if we feel things are safer and the risk is lower we will endeavour to welcome back more children,” the letter said.

“We appreciate that this will disappointing some of you but we cannot take risks with the safety of your children or our staff.

“We hope you will know that this decision has been made with your very best interests at heart.

“Increasing the number of bodies in school right now, is in our opinion not safe.”

On Thursday, St Helens North MP Conor McGinn said he had written to all schools within the constituency to ask them their views on the wider opening of schools.

Writing on social media, the Labour MP also accusing the government of giving out “muddled” messages around the plans.

He added that schools will have his “full support and confidence” in making these tough decisions in the weeks and months ahead.

Mr McGinn said: “We all want our children’s education and enjoyment of normal school life to resume, but this cannot be done at the expense of their health and safety, nor that of teachers and other staff working in our schools.

“Many of our schools have been open throughout this crisis, and I thank all those headteachers, teachers and staff who have provided support for vulnerable children and ensured that key workers have been able to continue in their vital work.

“Unfortunately, the government’s approach to this announcement, as it has been with their wider communication of how we move forward, has been muddled, and exacerbated anxiety and concerns.”