Oldham parents won't be hounded to get kids back to school

Parents in Oldham won't be hounded to send their kids back to school until they feel it is safe to do so, bosses have confirmed.

Despite the government plan that schools should begin a phased reopening from June 1, the town hall says that the final decision will be made by headteachers locally.

Parents who opt to keep children at home will also not be prosecuted by the local authority, Gerard Jones, the managing director of children and young people services has stated.

“There will be no compulsory attendance or fines, the DfE won’t be performance managing schools on attendance,” he said.

“In the end parents will make their own decision.

“It’s really on an individual basis, we won’t be tracking and chasing people down.

“Wherever we can reassure them, and it’s safe for them to do so, we’ll help them but really parents have got the final say about the safety and welfare of their children.”

As part of the government plans, three year groups within mainstream primary have been prioritised; reception, Year 1 and Year 6 would return first as ministers say these are ‘key transition years’.

Some secondary pupils in Year 10 and 12, who have key exams next year, have also been told to prepare for ‘some face to face contact’ with their secondary school and college teachers.

However across Greater Manchester most councils have said they will not meet the target June 1 reopening date, with some town halls like Bury council refusing to send pupils back while ‘high levels’ of COVID-19 remain.

Oldham council states that schools in the borough will be in ‘different positions’ in terms of their ability to readmit more pupils from next month.

“We’re working closely with the headteachers and it will depend on their individual risk assessments which we’ll work with them and support them on to decide if it’s the right thing for that school,” Mr Jones said.

“We’re not imposing a one size fits all approach, we’re really working with the schools.”

He added that most of the schools in the borough are already open to provide support to vulnerable children, and the children of key workers.

Further opening would be an expansion of the existing arrangements, but Mr Jones admitted it would be a ‘big step’ for schools.

“Headteachers and school governors have got the primary legal responsibility for health and safety in their schools,” he added.

“Actually we think for most children this will be a good thing if we do it safely because they really need to be back at school and back engaged.

“There are family pressures that are also rising that this will help with.”

Year six is being considered the most ‘realistic option’ to get back to school first rather than earlier years, according to leaders.

Oldham chief executive, Carolyn Wilkins added: “We need to be really sensitive to individual school circumstances but recognise that some of coming out of lockdown is about confidence.

“And it’s entirely natural that people have feelings of anxiety.”

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