MANY York schools welcomed back pupils on Monday - but a petition calling on parents to boycott the decision had already received more than 1,000 signatures.

City of York Council said that "all but a few schools have opened to a wider number of pupils", while nine Pathfinder Multi Academy Trust primary schools reopened part-time.

However, 24 schools within York-based Ebor Academy Trust remained closed to the wider years until risk assessments have been completed - but continue to remain open to vulnerable children and children of workers critical to the Covid-19 response.

And a city campaign group, ‘Boycott Schools opening in June’, has called on parents to keep their children at home until the scientific evidence shows it is safe for them to return.

Organiser Corrine Pearson said: “Schools in York should not be reopening until we see scientific evidence from the Government that it is safe to do. Experts from the SAGE such as Professor John Edmunds and Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Welcome Trust, have shared their concerns - with Edmunds publicly stating that SAGE members feel the rate of infection should be 'down to lower levels before we relax measures'.

“This campaign is about ensuring that the safety of our children is paramount; about protecting our communities against a deadly virus, and holding the council to account for its inaction on this matter.”

York Central MP Rachael Maskell said: “I know that many parents are concerned about the wider opening of schools, and the implications that this has for their children. We need to continue to push for evidence that a wider opening is the right way forward and ensure that we do not introduce unnecessary risk.”

Councillor Ian Cuthbertson, the council's executive member for children, young people and education, said: “We understand and share the concerns of parents and school staff over the lack of clarity that has come from the central Government in the last couple of weeks. I want to reassure parents that no school in York will be forced to open if the school believes that it cannot be done safely and, in this situation, that no action such as fines will be taken against any parents who do not wish to allow their children to return to school.”

He stressed that the council does not have the statutory power to force schools to open, as the decisions rest with the headteacher, and that it was important for children to return to school soon due to the negative impact from a long period outside education.

Pathfinder Multi Academy Trust said children in nursery classes, reception and Year 1 will return to its nine schools part-time - while some Year 6 pupils will return at certain schools. On Wednesday its schools will be closed to all but priority groups to allow enhanced cleaning. A spokesman for Ebor Academy Trust said none of its 24 schools will be opening to wider year groups this week.