Up to 550,000 children stuck at home as councils across the country continue to defy ministers and tell schools not to open

Up to 550,000 primary school pupils were kept at home on Monday morning after more than 50 councils opposed Boris Johnson’s plan to reopen classrooms to Reception, Year One and Year Six students.

Councils across England sided with teaching unions that have argued it is still not safe to send pupils back to school, with the rate of coronavirus infection in some areas still high.

At least 54 councils told schools not to reopen on June 1, or left the decision up to headteachers.

More than half a million primary school pupils who would have gone back to school on Monday could still be at home, receiving home schooling from their parents or filling in worksheets online.

Schools in Brighton and Hove, Calderdale, East Yorkshire and the Wirral have been told to stay closed, while some councils in London have told schools they can make up their own minds, even though the virus level is lower in the capital.

Greenwich, Harrow and Islington councils all said local authority schools under their jurisdiction could remain closed.

Academy schools across England are able to make their own decision on reopening since they are independent of local authority control.

On Monday morning, teachers were pictured scanning the foreheads of pupils on their way into the building to test for a fever, which can be caused by the virus.

Schools marked out work spaces on the floor to encourage social distancing between pupils, while teachers have been instructed to stay with their class groups at all times to enforce “bubbles” of students and prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The Prime Minister has acknowledged the June 1 start date for primary schools is controversial, admitting in a press conference last month that it would not be possible everywhere.

“Now I acknowledge that a June first opening may not be possible for all schools but the government will continue to support and work with the sector to ensure that any schools experiencing difficulties are able to open more widely as soon as possible,” he said.

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