AN EDUCATION union has told its 4,000 members in County Durham not to engage in the process for the phased reopening of schools from June 1.

Representatives from the Durham branch of the National Education Union (NEU) have told members not to engage in the process under guidance issued by the Department for Education on Monday night.

Emma Parker and Nik Jones, joint district secretaries, said: "We at Durham NEU are absolutely appalled at their lack of concern for staff, children and families safety. We are in constant contact with hundreds of our members who echo our disbelief and dismay."

The union said the Government has failed its five tests for the safe reopening of schools.

An email, sent to about 4,000 members of the union in County Durham on Monday, said: "We are fully aware of the DFE guidance that has been released tonight and are absolutely disgusted and horrified by the content.

"We are advising all members, schools and parents not to engage in any process that involves a return on the 1st of June under the current guidance set out by the DFE, as we in Durham NEU believe it is dangerous and reckless.

"The new guidance is in our opinion is cruel and will significantly impact upon children mental health and puts staff and their families at significant risk of harm."

Ms Parker added: " "We are concerned about the children's education but we will deal with that when it's safe.

"There's a panic and I understand that but children are in school for 15 years and they have missed about eight weeks. We will sort it out. Education will wait. The safety of everyone trumps education at the moment."

From June 1, primary schools in England may be able to welcome back children in nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

Secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges have also been told to work towards the possibility of providing face-to-face contact with those in Year 10 and Year 12 in preparation for exams.

The Prime Minister said he hoped all primary school pupils would have a month in school before the end of term.

A range of protective measures have been set out, including reducing class sizes, staggering break and lunch times and increasing the frequency of cleaning.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I know how hard schools, colleges, early years settings and parents are working to make sure children and young people can continue to learn at home, and I cannot thank them enough for that.

“But nothing can replace being in the classroom, which is why I want to get children back to school as soon as it is safe to do so. The latest scientific advice indicates it will be safe for more children to return to school from 1 June, but we will continue to limit the overall numbers in school and introduce protective measures to prevent transmission.

“This marks the first step towards having all young people back where they belong – in nurseries, schools and colleges – but we will continue to be led by the scientific evidence and will only take further steps when the time is right.”