THE REOPENING of schools could be delayed beyond June 1 amid a growing Northern revolt over the plans.
Calderdale Council in Yorkshire yesterday joined Bury, Liverpool, Hartlepool and Blackburn and Darwen councils and advised schools against reopening.
Northern Mega Mayor Andy Burnham backed the refuseniks and demanded No10 “show flexibility” and let some schools stay closed longer.
It came as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson met with teaching union bosses today to try to persuade them to ditch their opposition to reopening.
As the great revolt ratcheted up, the PM’s official spokesman stressed it was only “possible” that primaries will start letting more kids back on June 1.
He said: “We’re continuing to work closely with teachers, schools and the unions as we have done for the past eight weeks and remain keen to hear any concerns they may have.
“We are preparing for the possible reopening of schools from June 1 at the earliest but that will only happen if it’s safe to do so.”
He added: “We set out in the roadmap that we would like to get some children in early years Year 1 and Year 6 back into school and we gave a date of June 1 at the earliest.
“And we continued to work with schools, teachers and others to get more children in schools when it is safe to do so.”
The government has set out five strict tests – including getting Covid death and infection rates down and tackling the PPE crisis – before schools can reopen.
But a growing army of councils across England are revolting and have ordered their heads not to let kids back in on June 1 – whatever the government advice.
Labour-run Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire said it is “advising our schools against opening more widely on June 1.”
Their director of public health, Deborah Harkins, said: “The current evidence within Calderdale indicates three of the Government’s five tests are not met and unfortunately we are not assured that this will change before June 1.
“This means that we cannot advise our local schools that it will be safe to reopen yet.”
Blackburn and Darwen Council has ordered its schools to stay closed until June 8 at the earliest.
Dominic Harrison, their director of public health, told the BBC: “It feels like with schools we aren’t applying the same level of rigour of making sure children and teachers are safe
“If the infection rate doubled in the first two week of returning to school I don’t think any local authority would know because the data stream isn’t there.
“I think that’s a big risk in terms of assuring people that it’s safe.”
Mr Burnham, the Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester, said he “supports” the council revolt.
He said: “I just think there needs to be a little flexibility offered to councils like Bury to put in place the local arrangements to reassure parents, teachers and wider community.”
He added: “If that means a week or a couple of weeks beyond June 1, I say so be it.”
The schools row turned into open warfare in Bury where the Tory MPs laid into the Labour-run council over the rebellion.
In a blistering letter, James Daly and Christian Wakeford urged heads to ignore the council’s “political grandstanding” and make their own call on reopening.
They said the Labour council “does not have the power to close schools”, and slammed the council for peddling its “political view” which they said “does not appear to be based on clinical advice”.