Schools will have to pass a health and safety assessment before reopening more than two months after they were closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Essex County Council (ECC) is backing the government’s proposed phased reopening of schools – beginning with Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 – in June.

However, council officials have revealed schools will have to pass a health and safety assessment for they are able to offer “a full-time service”.

Cllr Ray Gooding, ECC cabinet Member for education, said: “I want to reassure parents, carers and communities that our primary concern is the safety of all children, their families and staff. The support and guidance we are giving to all settings puts safety at the forefront.

“Reopening is a complicated exercise and we are helping settings to come up with their own solutions. This means that settings will have their own approaches that work best for them, their children and their local communities.

He added: “We are clear that each setting’s health and safety risk assessment should drive their decision making. This will mean that not all settings will be able to offer a full-time service initially. Some may re-open later in June. Things will be gradual, phased, and small scale to begin with, and potentially until the end of term.

Plans are underway to limit class sizes, minimising contact between pupils, and timetables will be amended to avoid mixing between groups.

“I understand how uncertain this time is for parents and carers, and that following the government’s announcement about reopening of education and childcare settings, parents will still have a lot of questions and concerns”, Cllr Gooding continued.

"Finally, I want to pay tribute to the fantastic and tireless work of all education and childcare staff over the last few months, preparing for closure, supporting children with home learning, keeping settings open for those that needed it most, and now, working towards re-opening.

“The dedication and commitment they have shown during this time is inspiring and my thanks goes to each and every one of them.”

Parents will be contacted by schools with details of the arrangements in the coming weeks.

Epping Forest Guardian:

For more breaking news, local headlines and features, ‘like’ our Facebook page.

We also have a Twitter account: @EppingFGuardian

Follow us to keep up-to-date with news in Epping Forest.