Greenwich Council has stated that it will not be possible to fully reopen primary schools across the borough in a safe manner this academic year, and those that do return will be under no compulsion to do so.

The council says it is doing it all it can to get adequate safety measures in place at all of its schools, but that a number of essential measures must first be met by the government if plans are to go ahead.

The Government recently published proposals for primary schools to reopen to certain year groups on June 1, a decision which Greenwich Council stresses is a government decision and not one that sits with local authorities.

The current proposals state that schools should plan for a phased reopening at the start of June, starting with nursery, reception, year one and year six.

But the council have now issued a statement, stating that whilst they “want children to be able to go back to school if it can be done safely,” there remain serious concerns over the plans.

Greenwich Council said: “As this is a government decision, we have decided to work as far as possible with all affected parties to develop a plan that maximises the safety of our school communities in Royal Greenwich. 

“Since these measures were published, we have been working with our officers to develop Greenwich’s response and get assurances that our schools will be able to open safely.”

This guidance will be shared with schools as soon as possible, as the council is keen to ensure schools and governors develop local plans to determine what is best for their school and pupils. 

Given that each school has different levels of staff and layouts, the approach taken by each one will be different.

The council also states that following suggestions by the Prime Minister that all pupils will return before the end of the academic year, “we do not believe it is possible to do this safely for children or staff within the timeframe.”

Greenwich Council is not alone - Scores of councils in England have said they cannot guarantee primaries will safely reopen at the start of June, throwing the government plans into chaos.

According to the BBC, two-thirds of councils said they could not guarantee schools would reopen, coming as the Government prepares to publish scientific advice on its plan.

Greenwich Council says it backs measures set out by the TUC union that must be met before schools reopen.

These states that the safety and welfare of pupils and staff must be paramount, and there must be no increase in pupil numbers until the full rollout of a national test and trace scheme.

The union say additional resources for enhanced cleaning and PPE must be provided, a national Covid-19 taskforce set up and schools must be able to close if testing indicates a cluster new cases.

The TUC plan on meeting with ministers on May 28 to discuss the progress.

A number of schools have remained open across Greenwich during the lockdown, supporting vulnerable children or whose parents are key workers, with around 1,000 pupils in Greenwich attending. 

Moving forward, Greenwich Council that discussions between headteachers, governors, teachers, and parents are ongoing, and the situation is likely to change as things progress.

Parents will be contacted and informed of arrangements as soon as possible, and schools will be made to complete a health and safety assessment before moving forward.

“We know that parents will have concerns, and there will be no compulsion to send children back to school at this time, or any penalty if parents or carers choose not to.

“The Council will also work with schools and communities across Royal Greenwich to address these concerns. “