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22 May 2020

Publish date: 22/05/2020

With my 'other hat' on I attended a school governor's meeting yesterday evening to discuss the plans for reopening alongside the risk assessments, staff feedback and parental surveys which have been carried out over the last week. Many schools in my area have seen a marked increase in the number of key worker parents who now wish to send their children back to school, which is having a knock on effect on the availability of class rooms for the other returning years. At the time of writing this, more than 35 councils in England have stated not all of their primary schools will be ready to reopen on 1st June.

The Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, made it clear at the last No 10 briefing that the 'governments intention is for England to move forward together' despite calls from the LGA to give local authorities powers to close or open schools in their area based on local information. That said, there is some indication that the government might consider different measures for 'micro-hotspots', so perhaps the LGA is having some effect on this. Certainly it is positive to note that government has switched from not wishing to comment on what action if might take against schools who refuse to open, to (as reported by the BBC) "listening to the concerns of parents and teachers about the plans to reopen schools". It is a small but nevertheless encouraging shift.

For local authorities, many questions are being asked about liabilities in respect of reopening. Whose decision ultimately is it in respect of maintained schools? Where does liability fall and what insurance arrangements need to be considered. LLG understand the LGA are instructing counsel on these matters and will be formulating guidance based on this before the return to school date. We will keep you updated on that but in the meanwhile, we are holding live webinar training together with VWV on education which you can register for at LLG Legal Training. We also have a planning webinar and social media webinar next week, both free to access and of course, our weekly and very chatty LLG Grapevine Podcast will be available for you to catch up on when you get back to work Tuesday morning. To access all on demand training on a vast array of subjects go to https://www.lawyersinlocalgovernment.org.uk/webinars

Have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend

Best wishes

Helen McGrath

Head of Public Affairs