Schools that decide not to increase pupil numbers in the coming weeks have been given the “support” of Enfield Council.

The local authority says it is “still waiting for evidence from the Government” that a phased return to schools from June 1 is safe for staff and pupils.

In Haringey, the cabinet member for children and families said reopening schools must be based on when it is safe to do so, in line with government guidance and when five “key tests” set out by a teaching union have been met.

Schools across the country were closed to most pupils in March following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic – although many have remained open to the children of key workers.

The Government has now asked primary schools to start readmitting some cohorts of pupils from June 1 at the earliest as the Covid-19 lockdown eases.

But many teaching unions have opposed the move, warning it will not be safe for staff and pupils.

Enfield Council issued a statement on Friday (May 22) saying: “While local authorities have no powers to instruct schools to extend or reduce access to on-site teaching provision – this power lies with school governing bodies – having engaged extensively with schools and governors, the council understands the anxieties of all involved.

“Many organisations, including local authorities and trade unions, have expressed concerns about the reopening of schools on June 1.

“Consequently, schools in the borough that decide not to increase student numbers in the coming weeks have the support of Enfield Council.

“Furthermore, the council has already stated it is unwilling to fine parents who have understandable concerns about sending their children to school given the huge uncertainties.”

The statement adds that it is “unreasonable to expect schools to increase provisions when the Government has provided no practical support to manage the risks for staff and pupils”.

Dozens of other local authorities have raised concerns over the Government’s advice, with some – including Blackburn, Brighton and Hove, Bury, Calderdale and Leicester – telling a BBC Breakfast survey they would not be advising schools to open their doors to more pupils.

Enfield Council leader Cllr Nesil Caliskan said: “Given the ongoing impact of Covid-19 in the community, it is unsurprising that our teachers and parents are feeling anxious when being told it is safe for more students to go back to school.

“The scientific evidence, that it is safe to take this measure – both for staff and pupils – needs to be published by government and guidelines issued on how schools can take this step safely, without exposing anyone to unnecessary risk.”

Cabinet member for children’s services Cllr Rick Jewell added: “I agree with many teachers who have said that if the Government cannot present definitive evidence that it is safe to reopen schools, nor publish fully-funded guidance on how to manage the return safely, then they shouldn’t be giving schools a directive to open.

“Therefore, this council supports any school in Enfield that chooses not to open on 1 June.”

Cllr Zena Brabazon, Haringey Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for children and families, said: “Everybody must put public safety first. Education is a vital tool in reducing inequalities and one of the many travesties of this crisis has been that those children and young people who need school most have not been able to attend.

“But, as a parent, grandparent and the deputy leader of the borough, I believe that reopening of our schools by governing bodies must be predicated on the basis that it is safe to do so and the government guidance is met, which includes a list of key issues and actions.

“In addition, I believe that the National Education Union’s five tests must also be met. Our hard-working teaching staff, parents and children deserve to know that it is safe when they go to school.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The evidence published today shows we looked at a range of options in drawing up this phased approach to reopening schools, which is in line with the Government’s overall ‘roadmap’.

“As in other countries across Europe, the first phases of the wider opening of schools will prioritise younger children. Advice from SAGE shows there is a lower overall risk from opening schools and nurseries to younger children, and that they are less likely to become unwell if infected with coronavirus compared to adults.

“This cautious, phased approach for allowing a limited number of pupils back into classrooms has been, and will continue to be, informed by the best possible scientific and medical advice.”