THE LEADER of the council has said that pupil safety is paramount following the news that students can return to schools next week.

Coun Sir Steve Houghton spoke about minimising the risk of the spread of COVID-19 after it was announced by the government that pupils could return to classrooms as early as June 1.

Children of key workers have been eligible to stay in school throughout the duration of lockdown but under the new proposals nurseries, select primary school classes, and secondary schools and colleges can begin teaching pupils face-to-face.

Coun Houghton said: "Understandably, a key concern for many is how having more children in settings will impact on the transmission of coronavirus. Our priority is to make sure that children and staff are always as safe as possible, and our public health team and schools’ service will support schools and early years settings.

“Our approach in Barnsley is to base our decisions on the best evidence available at the time and to follow national guidance.

“Most schools have been open through the pandemic for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

“Most schools are seeking to gradually extend this offer on June 1 for the stipulated age groups and vulnerable children and those of key workers. A small number of schools will take a two-week break at half term and in these cases, they will welcome pupils at the earliest opportunity on June 8.

“Based on risk assessments, we're supporting schools and early years settings to welcome children back, should their parents or carers wish to do so.”