Redbridge’s council leader insists his “position has not changed” on reopening schools and advises those reopening to add no more than 10 children to each class.

In a statement released today (May 29), Cllr Jas Athwal said a number of primary schools in the borough had already chosen to delay opening to more children until at least June 15.

Of those reopening, he said it was “highly unlikely” they will include all four year groups suggested by the Government due to social distancing requirements.

Cllr Athwal said: “Many local parents and carers have reached out to me over the past few weeks to share their concerns over sending their children back to school and as a parent I empathise.

“I know that there is a genuine concern at the prospect of children returning to school. At the same time, there is also a collective desire to see children get back to receiving a formal education as soon as possible.

“We have advised local schools to only provide spaces for more students, in addition to the children of key workers, if they are certain the numbers can be managed safely.

“Whilst the decision over when and how a school is opened up lies with the head teacher and school governing body, our council has taken a proactive approach, providing risk assessments, advice, guidance and PPE to local schools.”

Read more: Redbridge leader's previous statement on schools reopening

Cllr Athwal said the council will only support each school reopening when it has “clearly demonstrated proper measures have been taken to keep children and staff safe and reassured”.

He also confirmed in a letter on May 18 that parents will not be penalised for refusing to send their children to school even if they are eligible to return.

The “vast majority” of schools planning to reopen are prioritising places for Year Six students, though some are focusing on younger years instead.

Cllr Athwal added: “We will continue to do our utmost to support schools in making the school environment as safe as possible for children and staff.

“As part of the discussions with schools and our public health team, we've advised that the class intake should be limited to no more than ten pupils, five less than the Government recommendation.

“We've also advised schools on what PPE equipment they might need to have available for staff and what other safety measures we suggest they implement.”

Cllr Athwal also issued a “huge thank you” to school staff for their “selfless attitude” and “incredible work”.

Guidance provided by Redbridge Council asks schools to continue prioritising the children of key workers, vulnerable pupils and those with special educational needs.

It also suggests staggering start and finish times, developing timetables for cleaning and hygiene and daily deep-cleaning after children go home.

Redbridge Conservative leader Cllr Linda Huggett previously criticised Cllr Athwal for failing to consult her party before releasing a statement on schools earlier this month.

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