Schools in County Durham are being advised that they should only start a phased reopening when they ‘feel’ it is safe to do so, following the Government’s announcement on the phased return.

Durham County Council has been working with schools and has provided comprehensive guidance on risk assessment, acknowledging that the circumstances for each school are different.

Cllr Olwyn Gunn said: “The Government’s announcement on a phased return to school is both controversial and complex, but the safety of children and staff is paramount.

“Since the Government lockdown, schools have remained open for some pupils. During that time we have been supporting them and will continue to support them through this next challenge.

“There is no simple answer to the phased reopening and I’m acutely aware that there is a nervousness about returning too early. This is completely understandable and whilst it will be great for all children to return to school, parents, carers and staff need reassurance regarding safety.

“Durham County Council has provided extensive guidance to schools around a phased reopening and decisions on the timing of it and the number of pupils returning will be based on an individual, rigorous risk assessment for each school.

“In line with national guidance, parents and carers can be assured that they will not be penalised if they make the decision not to send their children back to school whilst we are in the process of the Government’s proposed phased return. Parents and carers can make the choice they feel is right for their children and should not be pressured into a decision they are uncomfortable with.

Cllr Gunn also praised school staff. She added: “Schools have never closed. Staff have been there for vulnerable children and those of key workers ever since the lockdown. They have shown remarkable resilience, care and selflessness. I want to share my thanks and gratitude to all staff who have been working to keep schools open, providing homework and support to parents and carers and, in some cases, delivering food and activities to family homes. Not only have they stepped up to take on these challenges they have gone above and beyond what has been asked of them.”

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