Luton steers clear of rebellion and follows government plan for primary schools reopening

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Luton Borough Council has announced it will follow the government's plan to send three year groups of children back to school on June 1.

It comes as dozens of other English councils are resisting the government's target for reception, year 1 and year 6 children to return to school in little over a week.

Liverpool City Council was the first to speak out against Boris Johnson's reopening plan on June 1, while Calderdale, Bury and Hartlepool councils have all followed suit.

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Conservative-led Solihull Council also warned schools may not be prepared to reopen on the proposed date. Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds' city councils have also voiced doubts about whether their schools will follow the government's directive.

Luton Town HallLuton Town Hall
Luton Town Hall | jpimedia

Only 20 of 99 councils to responding to a BBC Breakfast survey said they were advising schools to open more widely on Boris Johnson's target date.

A Luton Borough Council spokesman said: "Our schools have been working exceptionally hard to follow the government’s request to open for more children in nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 from week commencing June 1 at the earliest.

"This is subject to a number of conditions being met before the government announces whether or not it will proceed with its proposals and it is likely that the decision will be forthcoming on around May 28.

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"We recognise and share some of the concerns expressed locally and nationally.

"However we do not believe that advising all local authority schools not to open for more children on June 1 would be the best approach.

"The council has been working in partnership with headteachers to determine the best way to welcome back more children to schools.

"Keeping children and staff safe is the number one priority, therefore individual schools will decide how and when to accept increasing numbers of pupils.

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"Risk assessments are currently being conducted and health and safety policies and practices are being reviewed to allow necessary measures to be in place to ensure everyone’s safety."

After weeks of stability, Luton's daily coronavirus figures have risen sharply over the past two days - increasing by 13 on Thursday and 24 yesterday (Friday).

Currently, Luton's nursery schools are looking at how they can plan to welcome back more children from June 1.

Secondary schools are also being asked to plan for "increased face-to-face contact" with Year 10 students. It is not expected these pupils will return on a full-time basis and there are no plans to reopen secondary schools before the summer holidays.

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Cllr Aslam Khan, portfolio holder with responsibility for education, said: “I would like to commend all Luton schools and council education staff who continually go above and beyond to ensure children and young people can continue learning either at home or in school as well as providing critical assistance to vulnerable families. We acknowledge and appreciate your selfless dedication.

“Many of Luton’s schools are much larger than the national average and this presents a number of logistical challenges that headteachers will need to address to implement the government guidelines. And individual schools vary greatly from the size and capacity of their buildings to their staff profile.

“We would like to reassure parents and carers that the safety of all children and school staff is of paramount importance. Headteachers will plan increased pupil numbers in a systematic and phased manner and will open to more children only once all safety measures can be met.

“Based on current assessments it is extremely unlikely that any Luton primary school will be welcoming all pupils back before the summer holidays.”

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