Lancashire schools get green light to open up

Education bosses in Lancashire have told schools they can admit more pupils from next week... if they feel ready.

Coun Philippa Williamson
Coun Philippa Williamson

Although heads have the final say, until now county public health chiefs had advised schools to ignore government guidance and not allow any other than the families of key workers and vulnerable children in.

However, a drop in Covid-19 cases has seen the rules changed and they are being told to open up from next Monday, if they want to.

A statement issued today says: " Dr Sakthi Karunanithi had issued blanket guidance to schools to delay reopening to more pupils because his professional view was that two of the government's five coronavirus tests were not being met in the county.

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi

"However, a reduction in the rate of confirmed coronavirus infections combined with our readiness to support the local implementation of the national NHS Test and Trace Programme means that enough progress has now been made to adjust the advice."

The government says that children from reception, Year 1 and Year 6 should now back be back in small groups.

For secondary schools and colleges, the government wants teachers to have some face-to-face contact with specified year groups. But, all pupils are not expected back before September.

Heads are being told to consult with their governors to asses their own individual circumstances, including the ability to introduce social distancing and ensure schools are Covid-secure.

Dr Karunanithi said: "I am now satisfied that there no longer needs to be blanket advice given to Lancashire's schools to delay reopening to more pupils.

"We are seeing encouraging signs that there is a reduction in the rate of new infections and thankfully there are now fewer deaths from this virus – but it is important to stress that the prevalence of coronavirus is still higher in Lancashire than elsewhere in the country so the room for manoeuvre is limited.

"Each school should now take into account their own individual circumstances to determine if they can welcome more pupils to Covid-secure schools from 22 June."

He warned: "There are a number of factors they must consider and one of the most critical is whether or not they are able to introduce effective measures to encourage social distancing.

"That is also important advice for us all. This virus has not gone away, and there is still a risk that we will face a second peak. That makes it vital for us to maintain social distancing, wash our hands regularly and, if contacted by NHS Test and Trace, follow the instructions given. Failure to do this could see some of the measures to ease restrictions on our lives reversed, and could lead to more people dying of coronavirus."

Councillor Phillippa Williamson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: "This will be welcome news for many parents and schools. This has been a difficult time for many families across Lancashire and we have continued to keep the health and wellbeing of all our children at the heart of our decisions.

"We are proud that our schools have remained open throughout this crisis for the children of key workers and vulnerable children, and we will continue to support schools as they consider whether they are able to accept more pupils from 22 June.

"We also want to acknowledge the fantastic effort of parents during this challenging time and thank them for their understanding and continued efforts in supporting their children’s education."

Coun Shaun Turner, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, added: "It is good to see there has been progress in the local implementation of the NHS Test and Trace system.

ne in Lancashire to play their part to combat coronavirus. We all need to make sure we continue to abide by social distancing rules, wash our hands regularly and stay at home if we have symptoms or are told to do so by a contact tracer."

Parents who prefer not to send their children back will not be penalised by the education authority

The advice also applies to early years settings including nurseries and childminders.