THERE is no pressure on parents to send their children back to school, and no fines will be given out.

So said Cllr James Barber, Cheshire East’s Champion for Young People as he explained the reasons behind the planned wider opening of Cheshire East’s schools, colleges and early years settings.

He said: “Naturally the idea of your children going back into an educational setting may cause anxiety and worry.

“This is why, contrary to the Government’s wishes, Cheshire East will not be asking additional children and young people to attend educational institutions on June 1; instead we will begin the process of a careful, staged approach.

“This will mean that between June 1 and 14 we have proposed that schools prepare their sites, classrooms and policies to adapt to the new changes.

“Then, from June 15 on, additional pupils will be phased back into their educational settings.

“Starting off in Early Years, Primary School and Secondary School settings, we will continue to prioritise children of key workers, children with an Education, Health and Care Plan and vulnerable children.

“Then, from June 15, all nursery aged pupils will be welcome, but places limited.

“From June 22 all reception and Year 1 pupils will be welcome back to primary school, moving to all Year 6 on June 29 if the school has enough space to do so with social distancing in place.

“A position on more face-to-face support for Years 10 and 12 pupils will be considered following further guidance from the DfE.

“Naturally, there will be disappointment from many parents, and we recognise this. Our decision has been driven by assuring the safety of children and staff in schools.

“Guidance has been slow so far, and we are still awaiting further guidance from the DfE.

“But we want to emphasise that we want everyone to be confident with the plans in place, as we should not be taking risks with our children and school staff by moving too quickly.

“It is important that you as parents recognise that schools will not be delivering a full curriculum, and pupils will not be able to mix outside their allocated group, or ‘bubble’, with contact between pupils being limited.

“We are encouraging all education settings across Cheshire East to follow our guidance.

“We understand that even with a wider opening that will allow more time for alterations to make schools, colleges and early years settings, you as parents may still be concerned.

“This is completely understandable. Therefore, while we encourage you to speak to your child’s place of learning to make your own judgement on whether to send them in or not, there is no pressure on parents to send their children to schools, and no fines will be given out.

“This is inevitably one of the most difficult choices you will have to make as a parent, with your child’s health your upmost priority.

“Therefore we have encouraged all schools, colleges and early years settings to give you all the information you need to make your decision.

“The Government guidance suggests ‘bubbles’ or classes of no more than 15, but we understand many schools will not be able to accommodate that with social distancing in the space they have.

“Each school will make their own plans, but we expect groups to be lower than that in reality.

“Cheshire East is regularly reviewing the situation and are ready to take swift action if there is another spike in cases, especially among children.

“This decision was made with children’s safety at its heart. Because while their education is of huge significance, their health and safety is our priority.

“That is why we are not rushing into this, and why our approach is gradual and phased.”