Calderdale’s Labour-run council has today advised the Borough’s schools not to open up for more children until it is clear that staff and children can be properly protected, and that the risks of increased transmission of the virus in the community can be kept as low as possible.

“This is at the heart of the Government’s own five tests”, explained council leader Tim Swift. “But the clear professional advice we have is that not all of these tests are being met locally and we cannot be certain this will change by 1st June. In particular, there is not enough evidence that the levels of infection in the community are low and falling; and we are not confident that there is guaranteed access to testing, so that in the event of a case both the individual concerned and all their contacts can be identified and rapidly tested for the virus.

“Our priority as a Council and as a Labour group throughout this crisis has been to put the safety and wellbeing of our community first.

“For these reasons, whilst we want our schools to plan for opening up to more children when it is safe to do so, we are strongly advising schools that they should not be doing this as soon as the 1st June.”

Cllr Adam Wilkinson, Labour’s lead member for Children and Young People’s services, added:

““Our schools and nurseries have been doing a fantastic job during this crisis, supporting children with learning at home whilst offering safe places for the most vulnerable and for the children of key workers. And of course we want to see children returning to schools and nurseries as soon as it is safe to do so, but it would be irresponsible to encourage schools to rush to meet an artificial timetable. We need to be certain that each step taken protects the safety of staff and children, and does not risk contributing to an increase in infection levels in the community.”

Halifax Labour MP Holly Lynch welcomed the council’s position:

“Most schools and parents will welcome this decision as we cannot currently say with any degree of confidence that they can safely open for more children. There is no scientific consensus on how children transmit the virus, and many teachers have contacted me to say it will simply not be possible to enforce social distancing measures with small children. We need to have testing and a proper track and trace system in place before schools welcome back more pupils, and have enough confidence that infection levels will not spike again.”

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