SCHOOLS in West Lancashire will be able to reopen to more pupils from June 22 after the county's Director of Public Health decided that “enough progress has been made in the county” to revise his advice.
The Champion has previously reported how Dr Sakthi Karunanithi issued blanket guidance to schools to delay reopening to more pupils because his professional view was that two of the government's five coronavirus tests were not being met in the county.
The decision to welcome back more pupils to Lancashire's schools lies with head teachers, in consultation with their board of governors, taking into account their individual circumstances.
The government says that children from Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 can now be welcomed back. For secondary schools and colleges, the government is keen for teachers to have some face-to-face contact with specified year groups.
Dr Karunanithi said: “I am now satisfied that there no longer needs to be blanket advice given to Lancashire's schools to delay reopening to more pupils. We are seeing encouraging signs that there is a reduction in the rate of new infections and thankfully there are now fewer deaths from this virus – but it is important to stress that the prevalence of coronavirus is still higher in Lancashire than elsewhere in the country so the room for manoeuvre is limited.
“Each school should now take into account their own individual circumstances to determine if they can welcome more pupils to Covid-secure schools from 22 June. There are a number of factors they must consider and one of the most critical is whether or not they are able to introduce effective measures to encourage social distancing.
“That is also important advice for us all. This virus has not gone away, and there is still a risk that we will face a second peak. That makes it vital for us to maintain social distancing, wash our hands regularly and, if contacted by NHS Test and Trace, follow the instructions given. Failure to do this could see some of the measures to ease restrictions on our lives reversed, and could lead to more people dying of coronavirus.”
The county council recognises these are exceptional times, so if a child is invited back by their school, but parents choose not to send them, the council will not be exercising enforcement powers such as fines.