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Dan Jarvis Sheffield prepares to reopen schools: Mayor concerned that increasing pupil numbers will exacerbate a second peak

"I am concerned that a blanket reopening of schools on 1 June risks exacerbating a second peak," Sheffield City Region Mayor tells Now Then.

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Photo by Benjamin Elliott on Unsplash

EDIT: According to a guest article by Cllr Abtisam Mohamed, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, in The Star today (21 May), "Some schools will be ready to bring back more children on 1 June, more will do so later that week and perhaps the majority [...] from 8 June onwards."


Sheffield City Council has said it is expecting to partially reopen the city's schools on 1 June despite warnings from the Mayor of Sheffield City Region that this risks "exacerbating" a second peak.

Some English councils including Liverpool and Hartlepool have written to parents to say that schools in their area will not partially reopen on 1 June. This is in direct defiance of central government, who want to see reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils return to the classroom.

"Following the government's recent announcement that schools should be prepared to open more widely from 1 June at the earliest, we have been working to support schools to welcome more children back to school in as safe a way as possible," said Cllr Abtisam Mohamed, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills at Sheffield City Council.

But Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis told Now Then that schools should only reopen when the safety of pupils, staff and the wider community can be guaranteed.

"I am concerned that a blanket reopening of schools on 1 June risks exacerbating a second peak," he said, referring to the government's decision to reopen schools nationally.

"Local authorities and headteachers must have a degree of flexibility to respond to circumstances within individual authority areas and schools, which is why I have consistently called for the publication of the 'R' rate at regional and local level to better inform decision-making."

The 'R' rate refers to the number of people that each infected person passes the virus onto. It is different across the UK, with an estimated rate of 0.4 in London compared to 0.8 in Yorkshire and the North-East. A rate higher than 1 means that the pandemic will grow exponentially.

The Council said that most Sheffield schools have stayed open throughout the pandemic for the children of key workers and that their first priority was to make sure children and staff are "as safe as possible at all times."

All Sheffield schools will have to carry out a comprehensive risk assessment looking at staffing levels and building layouts before they reopen.

Unions representing teachers and school staff have said their members would not return to work until a full 'test and trace' regime, which is currently being piloted on the Isle of Wight, is in place. The Scottish and Welsh governments have confirmed that their schools will not reopen on 1 June.

Mayor Jarvis told Now Then that the prolonged closure of schools will have a "profound impact" on the education of children from poorer backgrounds.

"I am working with local schools, colleges, trade unions and third sector organisations to close the 'digital divide' and improve access to remote learning for students in South Yorkshire," he said.

"However, guaranteeing the safety of pupils and staff and preventing our schools from becoming future hotspots of infection must be the number one priority."

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Sheffield City Region Mayor and Labour MP for Barnsley Central, Dan Jarvis
Filed under: Dan Jarvis #Coronavirus

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