CUMBRIA County Council will not take the final decision on when to reopen away from schools despite pressure from a union chief.

The council has left the final decision with individual schools on how and when to reopen after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that children from nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 would be allowed to go back.

But Andy Brewerton, president of the Cumbria district of the National Education Union, has now called for the county council to take control and shelve the reopening until “it is safe to do so”, with 350,000 people having signed a petition in support of the union.

Mr Brewerton said: “Over the past week heads and teachers have been working extremely hard to try and get schools ready for an expanded opening from June 1.

“Many have spent long hours poring over the various government advice documents, the drip of medical and scientific data being released and the county’s own risk assessment pro-forma that is vital in the safe opening of schools, in an attempt to create a clear and achievable plan for safe expanded opening.

“Many are finding contradictory and confusing information which in turn is causing them stress and worry about being able to expand the opening of their schools safely.

“It is with this in mind that we call upon the county council to reconsider their decision to allow the expanded reopening of schools to go ahead.”

The union – which represents teachers and other schools staff – has outlined five tests which it believes must be satisfied before an expanded reopening of the county’s classrooms amid the coronavirus.

The tests are a much lower numbers of cases; a national plan for social distancing in schools; access to regular testing for children and staff; a strategy for when a case occurs in a school; and protection for vulnerable staff and staff who live with vulnerable people.

The chairs of Cumbria’s six constituency Labour parties have also written to Stewart Young, the council’s leader, to back the union. The letter said: “The decision to reopen must not be left to heads and governors; this is neither sensible or fair to burden them with this impossible choice.”

A county council spokesman said parents and carers should read information provided by their school and contact them if they have any questions.

They added: “We have been working with schools and trade unions since this situation began, and this continues as we work to implement the national guidance around the wider opening of schools.

“To support schools in making informed decisions about opening, which put pupil and staff safety at their heart, we have provided advice, guidance and risk-assessment tools.

“Cumbria has a wide range of schools in different circumstances, as such we expect a diversity of arrangements from Monday.”