YOUNGSTERS from disadvantaged backgrounds could get left behind if they do not return to primary school soon.

That is the main concern Winsford councillors have over the current plans for children to return to the classroom.

While the Government wants children in nursery, reception, year one and year six to return to class on Monday, Cheshire West and Chester Council has agreed a different approach that will see youngsters return later in June if schools feel it is safe.

Cllr Mike Baynham, Conservative CWAC member for Over and Verdin, fears that delay will harm the education of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

He said: "The opening of schools is vitally important in some of our more deprived areas of Winsford where families are being stretched to the limit, and pupils falling behind more quickly than in other areas.

Winsford Guardian:

"Each school in the town and the borough will have different challenges and we have to rely on headteachers, governors and senior staff to determine if their school can open.

"It is therefore disappointing that the council is advising that June 8 should be the earliest start date for schools in the borough, when some schools have indicated that they are prepared and could open earlier."

Under CWAC's plan, primary schools in CWAC will make the decision on whether they feel they can safely allow youngsters to return from June 8, and parents will not be fined if they choose not to send their child back.

READ > Guardian readers have their say on school return plans

That plan was conditional on the Government's 'five key tests' being met, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed they were on Thursday.

Cllr Nathan Pardoe, Labour CWAC member for Wharton, agrees that disadvantaged children could be left behind – but understands why parents might not want their kids to return to class.

He said: "The gap between disadvantaged kids and kids from affluent backgrounds will get more significant, and that is a big reason to try and go back.

Winsford Guardian:

"But I think the Government target is too soon. We can't rely on test and trace at the moment, knowing who has it and who hasn't.

"We should be using this time to get children from disadvantaged backgrounds set up on remote learning, and I know that schools are doing their best to support them.

"As a parent, I would not be happy about sending our child back in. That is one thing that is lost sometimes, that councillors and other people making these decisions have families of their own. I can completely understand parents' concerns and I agree with them."

One-third of Guardian readers said June was the right time for youngsters to return to school in an online poll last week, while 62 per cent felt it was too soon.

Out of the responses received, 47 per cent of readers felt it was best to wait until September for children to return.

When CWAC's plan was announced, Cllr Bob Cernik, cabinet member for children and families, said: "All schools are currently open and have been since the start of the lockdown, including the holidays. They are doing an outstanding job looking after vulnerable children and children of key workers, that will continue.

Winsford Guardian:

"Before any of our schools open to larger numbers of children we need to be sure it’s safe to do so.

"Based on the evidence, from all the schools in the borough, June 8 is the very earliest we could achieve any expansion. This is not a target date, it’s an advised earliest safe starting date for some schools who have indicated they are ready to expand their cohort.

"The safety of pupils and school staff is our priority and we will support all our schools with their decision about reopening."