SCHOOLS across the region are putting safety measures in place to enable the return of some pupils from June 1 - despite some politicians arguing it is too soon to be safe.

Middlesbrough Council's Labour group last night urged its local authority to follow Hartlepool in refusing to open on the Government's proposed date of June 1.

North Yorkshire County Council confirmed it is preparing for a June 1 return, but pledged it would not prosecute any parents who refused to send their children to school over safety fears.

Councils in Durham and Darlington say they are also working with headteachers to support safe reopening in line with Government guidance.

The Northern Echo: Social distancing measures in a school classroom. Picture: PASocial distancing measures in a school classroom. Picture: PA

The Government has advised a return to the classroom for pupils in nursery, reception and primary school years one and six.

Nurseries and other early years providers, including childminders, will be able to operate, while secondary schools will be asked to provide face-to-face support for years 10 and 12 with upcoming exams.

However, some officials have expressed reservations over the safety of a June 1 reopening, with Easington Labour MP Grahame Morris saying it cannot be done at the expense of people's health.

Mr Morris said: “I want schools to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so, but it’s not safe yet.

"The current proposals are reckless and risk contributing to a second coronavirus spike, at a time when the Government are still struggling to control the initial outbreak.”

Cllr Matthew Storey, leader of Middlesbrough Labour Group, also said the June reopening date 'cannot be met safely'.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Matthew Storey Picture: James CainCllr Matthew Storey Picture: James Cain

He said: "We all want to see children back in schools continuing their education but not at the risk to their health and that of teachers, teaching assistants, cleaners and dinner staff."

He added: "As we know the North-East has one of the highest rates for coronavirus in the UK and locally it continues to rise.

"The date of opening is irrelevant.

"The issue is that schools should only open when it is safe to do so and adherence to an arbitrary date without doing the necessary work and consultations is a mistake."

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald said he has been contacted by teachers and parents who have raised 'grave concerns' about reopening.

And Darlington's Green Party has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, calling for extra government funds to pay for safety measures like personal protective equipment (PPE) and additional cleaning.

Cllr Matthew Snedker said: “Darlington Green Party acknowledge the tremendous amount of work teaching staff have put in keeping schools open for key workers’ and vulnerable children.

"The party understands the importance of pupils returning to schools - and the wider benefits this will bring to the individual pupils, their families and the community.

The Northern Echo:

Darlington Green Cllr Matthew Snedker

“However, our children are not to be used as guinea pigs, and that is why we are calling for greater clarity in the guidelines which, according to the Government, is led by science and safety.

"We are seeking assurances that children returning to school will not be at a greater risk of contracting coronavirus and bring it home to their families.”

Meanwhile, councils across the region say they are working with schools to ensure they can reopen safely.

Richard Crane, Durham County Council’s head of education and skills, said: “The safety of pupils and staff remains of paramount importance to us and we are continuing to liaise with schools across County Durham in monitoring and acting on government guidance.

"We are currently working with school leaders on their operational planning and risk assessments, to allow a phased re-opening of schools when it is safe to do so.”

Councillor Jon Clarke, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “The council is in regular contact with headteachers to support their preparation and planning.

"The safety of students and staff is the top priority for all concerned.”

In North Yorkshire,Stuart Carlton, corporate director of children and young people’s service at the county council, said the authority is following Government guidance on reopening.

The Northern Echo: Stuart Carlton of NYCCStuart Carlton of NYCC

He said schools will undertake a risk assessment to help plan appropriate safety measures, which will also highlight any schools in the county which can’t implement them.

Mr Carlton added: "Our teams are working with head teachers and unions to answer queries which have ranged from the re-opening of schools, to how transport and cleaning will be organised.

“Parents will be encouraged to send their children to school, however their attendance has not been mandated by the Government.

"Parents will not be penalised for not sending their children to school at this time.”

Councillor Alison Barnes, Cabinet Member for Children at Redcar and Cleveland Council, said: "Nothing is more important than the safety of our children and staff.

"They also deserve first-class educational opportunities and our officers and schools will continue to do all they can to work in the best interests of every child in Redcar and Cleveland.

"All our schools have remained open throughout the lockdown for identified children and there has been some fantastic work taking place with both the young people in school and those at home.

"Following updated Government guidance, all schools are working on their plans to make the sensible and practical arrangements that are needed to ensure the safe return of more children.

"We can reassure parents that schools will only open for additional children when headteachers and governing bodies are sure that the necessary arrangements can be implemented. We will continue to work closely with schools to support them and all they are doing to ensure the necessary safety measures are in place for our children."