The leader of Tameside Council has backed the government's decision to open some schools from Monday (4 January), but said the ultimate decision will remain with headteachers.
Councillor Brenda Warrington (pictured) and Executive Member for Lifelong learning, Equalities, Culture and Heritage, Cllr Leanne Feeley, have said that the best place for children to be is in school.
They said that due to Tameside's current Covid-19 infection rates, the effectiveness of track and trace and the risk to the most vulnerable children of not being in school, that it was crucial to keep them open.
In a joint statement issued on Sunday evening, they said: "We know that the best place for our children to be, whenever possible, is in school. Our schools have responded amazingly to the challenges the pandemic has presented. In view of the current rates of infection in the Borough, the effectiveness of the track and trace model in our schools and the risk posed to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children by not being in school, we are not advising the wholesale closure of primary schools tomorrow.
"We have always supported schools to make safe and sensible decisions that are right for their community, this will continue to be our position and approach.
"We are keeping the situation under constant review balancing the need to keep children in face to face education wherever possible with the need to slow community transmission of the Covid 19 virus. We know that children suffer greatly from missing education and that being in school is good for the emotional and mental wellbeing for our children, particularly those most vulnerable."
It went on: "Our current infection rate places Tameside 129th in the country and 9th (of 10) in Greater Manchester. We are acutely aware that rates are increasing locally and we will keep this position under constant review. We know our schools have done an amazing job of managing transmission and keeping our children and school staff as safe as possible in recent months and will continue to do so.
"In Tameside infection rates were much higher throughout the Autumn term then they are currently, and our schools used effective risk management and support from our public health teams to remain open throughout. We will work closely with the Director of Public Health, schools and trade union representatives to support head teachers in taking the decisions which are right for their schools.
"We will monitor the impact of the new strain and give parents and carers as much notice as possible should the transmission rates lead to a change in our position."