Leader: Schools reopening 'a matter for councils and teachers'

Reopening schools to all pupils should be left to local authorities and headteachers and not Westminster, according to the leader of Manchester council.

Sir Richard Leese (pictured) says the city's schools will not be following education secretary Gavin Williamson’s plans for a phased return for primary schools from June 1.

The government has now suggested that a uniform approach might not be possible, with several town halls across the country also planning to ignore the advice.

Speaking at a press briefing with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, Sir Richard said each council in the city-region would approach the matter differently.

“It’s worth saying that all of our schools have been open all the way through the crisis in order to provide for children of key workers and vulnerable children,” he said.

“That’s true across all 10 districts. We’re not reopening schools because we haven’t closed them in the first place.

“In Manchester we won’t be complying with what is set out by the secretary of state. We’re approaching the expansion of children going back into school in cooperation with headteachers.

“We’ve agreed with them the basis on which they’re going to cooperate, and that seems a sensible way to approach things rather than taking instruction from someone in Westminster.”

The ‘arbitrary’ date was also criticised by Mr Burnham, who says that councils should be given the flexibility to reopen schools at their own pace.

When asked if he supported Bury council’s decision to not reopen schools on June 1, he said: “We need to give [councils] that flexibility, if they need to delay by a week or a couple of weeks to ensure that safety issues are taken care of then that is something shouldn’t be controversial or problematic.

“Councils should be put in a position where they are able to make those judgements looking at the latest data.

“I think it’s right that Bury have taken their own decision and I would support any of our 10 [councils] in any decision they make, whether it was to open on June 1 or if some people think more time is needed.”

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