Councils need powers to close schools amid clusters

The Local Government Association has said that councils will need the power to close schools or nurseries if testing indicates clusters of new coronavirus cases.

Council leaders have expressed concerns about how schools will be able to impose strict social distancing measures, particularly with younger and more vulnerable children, which pose a potential threat to staff and other children’s families if they take the virus home with them.

Therefore, they want local flexibility to allow some schools to take their own decisions about reopening - in consultation with their councils. Local authorities are also urging the government to urgently publish the scientific evidence that underpins advice to reopen schools to reassure parents, pupils and teachers that it is safe to return from 1 June.

Judith Blake, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “We know parents are anxious about sending their children back to school or nursery. Plans to re-open schools and early years settings must focus on reassuring parents that it will be safe for children to return to school. Publication of the scientific advice is vital to help provide that reassurance.

“The safety of staff, parents and families is absolutely paramount. Councils need to be able to close provision where testing indicates clusters of new COVID-19 cases and it is vital that schools have the resources to provide staff with necessary protective equipment, as well as soap and hand sanitizer for cleaning.”