CHILDREN in Bolton are set to return to the classroom on June 1.

Vulnerable children, and the children of key workers, have been able to continue going to school throughout lockdown.

Now, all students in reception, year one, year six, year ten, and year 12 will also be invited back to class.

Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr David Greenhalgh and executive cabinet member for children’s services Councillor Anne Galloway released a joint statement on the move.

They said: “Bolton Council is committed to the inclusive education of all its children but wishes to ensure that the safety of children, families and teaching and support staff is paramount in our decision making.

“The last few weeks have been incredibly difficult for children, their parents and carers and all our school and early years settings.

“The political leadership would like to thank you for the incredible way you have worked to support children to continue to learn at this time and we would want to assure you that we will work hard going forward to support any child who has fallen behind during this time.

“Our priority is for the safety and wellbeing of our children and our whole community so when we plan for children to return to schools and settings it will only be when everyone is assured that all measures are in place to reduce risk for our children and staff in the broader Early Years settings, schools and the wider local community."

Children of key workers and those who are vulnerable will still be able to go to school as they have been for the last nine weeks.

Although pupils in these five age groups will be invited back, parents will be able to choose whether their children attend.

No action will be taken against parents for keeping their kids home.

Students who have members of their household shielding are not being encouraged to return to the classroom at this time.

Cllr Greenhalgh and Cllr Galloway added: "Currently headteachers and managers across Bolton are in discussion with their staff, parents, committee or governing body (where appropriate) and the Local Authority about how they will deliver the new expectations.

"There will be different approaches across Bolton. The trade unions have been engaged in discussions and will meet with council officers this week to share guidance and confirm Bolton’s approach.

"The gradual reopening of schools requires careful planning and a full risk assessment to ensure health and safety of children and staff is prioritised. The risk assessment should cover a range of areas including infection control, social distancing, staffing, learning environments, lunchtimes, drop off and pick up. It may take us longer to have clear arrangements in place.

"Although 1st June is a date we are working towards, any additional attendance may happen after this date. The decision making for each setting rests with the headteacher, the manager and their committee or governing body supported by colleagues in the local authority with decisions informed by the full risk assessment. We will be making local decisions where we feel it is appropriate for Bolton children and our community.

"Parents will be making their own decisions about whether their child returns to school and although they will be encouraged to send their children back to school when it is deemed safe to do so there will be no action taken against any parent who decides not to return their child to school.

"Schools and settings will be sending out regular updates on their approach with detailed guidance to parents. If you have any queries, please direct them to the school or setting your child attends as we continue to consult and discuss local options.

"Whilst recognising the vital importance of education for all children, we will always put the safety and wellbeing of our children and community first in our decision making. Please take care of yourselves."

Newly-elected Labour leader, Cllr Nick Peel, is worried about the plans to partially reopen schools.

He said: "We welcome the fact that these will be local decisions by head teachers and governing bodies, but we share their serious concerns around the manageability of social distancing.

"Many schools will need extra resources for deep cleans, PPE equipment and even partitions and screens, and questions remain unanswered about how schools will be able to do all of this in such a short period of time.

"The relaxation of lockdown rules has led to confusion across the country and whilst infection rates remain so high, its not worth taking the risk with both staff and pupils.

"The Government would have been in a better position had they provided finance for a massive expansion of online and remote learning for children.

"I tend to agree with the picture circulating on social media that says once the House of Commons gets full again, only then will a parent risk the safety of their child."