COUNCIL chiefs say they will support Winsford schools that wish to reopen next month if it is safe to do so.

Pupils in nursery, reception, year one and year six could return from June 1, but headteachers are considering what the best approach is for their own schools.

Cheshire West and Chester Council has confirmed that it will support schools that decide to safely reopen from June 1, or more slowly to meet their own needs.

Schools have been asked to complete a risk assessment to consider how soon it would be safe for them to do so, taking into account staff availability and whether children will be able to maintain social distancing.

Cllr Bob Cernik, cabinet member for children and families, said: "I understand in these difficult times that many people feel June 1 is just too soon to expand the number of children in attendance at school.

"This is for a variety of reasons including variations in infection rates across the country – school geography/layout, safe school transport availability, the ability to maintain social distancing with youngsters, staff availability and staff logistics.

"That is why we have sent out risk assessment information to complement the work already undertaken by head teachers and governors to assist their decision on whether or not to expand the school cohort from 1 June. In some cases, I understand this may not be possible.

"I would like to assure all parents and pupils, head teachers, governing bodies, and teaching staff that your own school's individual risk assessments and national guidance will be supported by the council. Your safety and wellbeing comes before any other consideration.”

The move comes after a Department for Education (DfE) announcement that these year groups in England may be able to return to school provided that the Government's five key tests are met over the next two weeks.

CWAC has been working with local headteacher associations to plan for a phased reopening of schools for pupils in nursery, reception, year one and year six of primary schools first.

READ > How coronavirus rules could work in schools

The council says it will support headteachers’ judgements as they decide on all appropriate and reasonable measures to keep children and staff safe, and how they will manage the reopening of their school for specific year groups.

Simon Kidwell, headteacher at Hartford Manor Primary School in Northwich, added: “As the Government moves towards reopening schools using a phased approach it is clear that a number of parents are still anxious about sending their children to school.

"Schools and the local authority are working at speed to develop risk assessments and implement measures to reduce the risks for their children, their families and their staff.

"The school teaching unions, the local authority, and school leaders are working together to take the appropriate actions to safely open our schools at the earliest possible date.”

Schools will communicate directly with parents, carers and other stakeholders of their decision and what the plan will be for their school.

Secondary schools, sixth form and further education colleges have been asked by the government to offer some face-to-face support to supplement the remote education of year 10 and year 12 students who are due to take key exams next year, alongside the full time provision they are offering to priority groups.

Borough chiefs say the safety of children and young people is a priority for the council and CWAC's education team will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Children of key workers have continued to attend school during the pandemic and will continue to do so.