CHILDREN returning to school today will be provided with PPE equipment and have more opportunity to receive outdoor learning, while their movements around the school will be kept to a minimum, York council has said.

City of York Council has published its risk assessment guidance on how schools reopening today will operate – and has encouraged parents to let their children return to school if they are now eligible.

The changes include having different drop-off and pick up times for parents, with only one parent allowed to attend, and new measures to how lunch is served, while there will be staggered break times for children.

In a statement, the council added that schools will be provided with PPE for early learning years, while their movements around the school will also be kept to a minimum.

It added that progress has been made in reducing the transmission of coronavirus - with York currently recording one new positive coronavirus case per day, compared to an average of 14 cases per day at the peak of the pandemic in the week of May 8.

The council said that schools will be guided by the number of staff they have available, size of their buildings and any other relevant issues when making decisions about how many children they can have on-site to maintain social distancing requirements. And that decisions to extend the opening of schools to additional year groups are being taken by head teachers, and schools’ governing bodies, who will be in contact with parents and carers to confirm the new arrangements and changed school timetables.

It added that in practice, the new requirements will mean that not all schools in the city will be admitting additional year groups on 1 June, but that all will continue to be open for vulnerable and key workers’ children who are still encouraged to attend school.

But York Labour called on the council to publish a statement proving that the National Education Union’s five tests have been met in York.

Cllr Bob Webb, Labour’s Education Spokesperson, said: “It is not necessary to have a fixed date for returning to school. What we need is access to clear local and publicly available evidence that school leaders can base their decisions on and only when locally the five tests can be achieved should local authorities and schools consider opening their gates to more children.”

It also called for a comprehensive plan for testing and tracing children and staff.

Cllr Ian Cuthbertson, executive member for children and young people, said that no school will accept more pupils until they are satisfied that all safety measures are in place.

Meanwhile, Poppleton Ousebank Primary School principal Estelle O’Hara has told parents: “Having relaxed the critical worker criteria, we have been overwhelmed by the response, with the number of families now requesting to access the childcare provision quadrupling. Regardless of Boris Johnson’s announcement, we will only be welcoming back pupils from critical worker families who applied for a place before May 22.”