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Farnley councillor’s concerns over September schools re-opening

A Farnley and Wortley councillor has expressed concerns over the potential re-opening of Leeds schools in September, writes David Spereall.

The city’s schools should all be back open straight after the summer holidays to stop pupils “falling behind”, according to Leeds Tories.

They accused the council’s controlling Labour group of failing to show leadership during the pandemic, after the authority said individual head teachers could decide whether or not to welcome students back at the start of June.

Labour indicated it wanted the goverment to set up a “co-ordinated national plan” to get children back to school.

But the party’s councillors also said they wanted to give local schools flexibility to continue online learning, particularly in places where pupils may be unable to keep a safe distance from each other.

Defending the council’s approach during the early summer at an online meeting on Wednesday, Green Party councillor Ann Forsaith (Farnley & Wortley) said that principals, teaching unions and parents had all “expressed deep concerns” ahead of the government’s proposed reopening date of June 1.

She added: “If some schools go back in September with 30 children in classrooms, albeit in bubbles, there will be no social distancing and the chances are there will be a second wave much worse than the first.

“Education doesn’t just have to be in school, other community facilities could be used.

“Our schools have alreay gone above and beyond what was expected of them and they now face the prospect of having to carry out more risk assessments.”

But the Conservatives claimed Leeds pupils were “falling behind the rest of Europe” because of the council’s approach.

Coun Dan Cohen said: “We want our young people back in school in September.

“We appreciate you don’t have all the levers, but you have influence.

“Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, it’s really time this administration started focusing on what it can do.

“I appreciate that may be harder than blaming the Government, but it’s what’s needed and what people in this city expect to happen.”

The full council meeting was the very first of its kind to be held virtually by Leeds City Council.

But technical problems caused severe disruption as almost all of the city’s 99 elected members tried to tune in on Wednesday afternoon, prompting a delay of around three-and-a-half hours before proceedings got under way.

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