SCHOOLS will not reopen on June 1 as the coronavirus crisis continues with levels of infection remaining high in the region, Bury Council has announced.

The local authority has decided not to follow the government’s guidance on reopening primary schools for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 on June 1.

It is now up to each governing body or trust, including those at faith schools and academies, to decide whether it agrees with the council’s position or if it will reopen regardless.

But Cllr Tamoor Tariq, lead member for children’s services, schools and families, said he is expecting all schools across the borough to “fall in line”.

He said: “Bury Council has been working closely with each of our headteachers, their governing bodies and their professional associations, and with other educational partners, to assess how the government’s recent advice and guidance on primary schools reopening to a wider cohort of pupils can be safely implemented.

“While high levels of COVID-19 infection in the North West remain, and guidance around practical arrangements for social distancing within educational environments, testing and tracing, and supply of PPE is unclear, the borough will not be reopening schools on June 1.

“We recognise the importance of schools re-opening, not only in terms of education, but for social and emotional reasons, especially for the most vulnerable children.

“We also recognise that role of getting children back to school in helping to kick-start the economy. But this needs to be done with the safety of school communities at front and centre."

Since schools were told to close due to the coronavirus outbreak in March, 73  have remained open for 714 vulnerable children and children of key workers.

Cllr Tariq added: “Throughout this period headteachers have been working hard to prepare for a wider reopening, and we will work closely with them as they continue to do that.

“Bury’s schools will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so. Anything we do in Bury will continue to be in full consultation and agreement with our schools, and with parents and carers in the borough given clear information on the situation at hand.

“The council’s position has been set out to provide a clear and consistent message to all schools, regardless of category.

“It is for each governing body or trust to determine how it wishes to respond, but we continue to work with all schools across the borough, including faith schools and academies.”

A petition calling on Bury Council to keep schools closed, except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers, until it is safe to do so, was started at the weekend and has been signed by hundreds of people so far.

It urges the council not to reopen schools beyond the current provision until the National Education Union’s five tests have been met.

Cllr Nicholas Jones, Conservative group leader on Bury Council, said: “We are waiting to hear from senior officers to understand the rationale for this decision.

“There has been no briefing to date by the council, which makes me believe this is a purely political decision by the Labour administration. They are putting politics ahead of the welfare of our children.

“The education of Bury’s children is vital in our town. The council is putting politics ahead of education development. I do not believe this decision has been based on scientific and/or health advice.

“The Conservative Group demands to know the reasoning and clear data for today’s decision.

“The government has been clear that they have been guided by the science at all key decision points throughout this pandemic, and that continues to be the case.

“Pupils and staff will only return to school on June 1 if the scientific advice allows. I do not believe Bury’s decision has been led by science.”