Waltham schools will open only when safe to do so says council leader

Waltham Forest’s council leader said today some of the borough’s schools are ready to reopen on June 1 but that “a one size fits all approach will not work”.

The Government currently hopes to reopen England’s schools to nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6 from next month provided it is safe to do so, with other students following soon after.

Both Waltham Forest and Redbridge’s council leaders have now confirmed parents will not be fined if they choose to keep their children at home until normality returns.

In a statement released today, leader Cllr Clare Coghill said schools would only be expected to reopen “once risk assessments have been carried out and appropriate measures put in place”.

She said: “Following careful consultation with schools, unions and parents, it is clear some schools are ready to open on June 1, but some schools still have further planning to do.

“The safety of children, their families and school staff remains the prime concern for the council and head teachers.

“We will do all we can to support headteachers to open schools to more pupils, but this decision must be based on when it is safe to do so, not by an arbitrary deadline.

“A one size fits all approach will not work and schools will need to implement plans based on a range of factors including their size, layout and availability of their staff.”

Waltham Forest schools which do reopen will not be expected to accommodate all year groups listed by the Government full-time or to reopen entirely later in the term.

The council is also working on a recovery plan to address education missed during lockdown and provide additional social and wellbeing support to children in need.

It has also called on the Government, which will make its final decision on schools reopening on May 28, to publish the full SAGE advice on expanding the number of pupils in schools.

Cllr Coghill also called on the Government to “give schools the tools they need to do the job” of reopening, including digital equipment for vulnerable children, cleaning resources and other safety measures.

She added: “We would like to thank our head teachers, and all school staff – from teachers and teaching assistants to school business managers, site service officers and cleaners – for their continued dedication, compassion and care provided across our community.”

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter