Sheffield City Council Defies Government And Tells Schools NOT To Reopen On Monday

They're being advised to delay until 15th June

Sheffield City Council's recommending schools don't reopen to more children on Monday, becoming the second South Yorkshire council to go against the government.

Public health bosses in the city say ministers' five tests for easing the lockdown haven't yet been met in Sheffield and they're not convinced the test and trace system is robust or effective enough.

They've told schools to delay any reopening until 15th June.

That's despite the government confirming last night they think it's safe to to start a phased return to the classroom for some primary kids from 1st June.

Councillor Abtisam Mohammed, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said:

"We have been advised by the Sheffield Director of Public Health, Greg Fell, who has reviewed the local position and he does not feel assured that the recently announced ‘Test and Trace’ programme will be sufficiently well established and robust enough to be in place for 1st June.
"He has advised that the Test and Trace system should be in place and working effectively for 14 days before schools and nurseries begin increasing their numbers.
"Whilst nationally the Government is requesting that schools and nurseries start to increase the number of pupils attending over the coming weeks, in light of the Sheffield Public Health advice we do not yet feel assured that it is the right time and are advising our schools and nurseries to delay increasing numbers until the 15th June 2020."

The council says it'll continue to monitor things closely and advise schools when the time is right.

Sheffield becomes the second South Yorkshire council to advice schools not to reopen on 1st June, after Doncaster Council released a statement last week.

Teaching unions are welcoming the news but say the decision should have been made earlier - Simon Much from Sheffield's branch of the National Education Union said:

"The Government's reckless approach and last minute decision making should not be mirrored on a local level. We trust and hope that in future Sheffield City Council make a proper and timely assessment of national advice and whether it is appropriate or safe for Sheffield to follow it without question."

But Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Miriam Cates is urging the council to reconsider going against the government:

"The risks to our children of not being in school are serious and growing by the day.
“As a mum and a former teacher, I know our children are suffering in many ways as a result of the lockdown and there is strong evidence to suggest gaps in education widen the attainment gap for disadvantaged children.
"The impacts of lost education and this lack of social interaction may have long-term consequences for our children’s life chances – including their health – and we must do everything we can to get children back to school and avoid a disadvantaged ‘COVID Generation’.
“Many parents will be expecting to return to work on Monday and now have only two days to notify their employer that they may no longer be able to attend. I have no doubt this will put additional financial pressure on families who are already struggling.
"For teachers on the Sheffield side of my constituency, this announcement means their plans must be delayed, whilst Barnsley schools can return from Monday, putting their plans into action.”