Council Leader hits back at claim authorities should have pushed for schools to re-open earlier

Published Tuesday, 7th July 2020

The Leader of a North East local authority has hit back at a claim schools should have reopened on Monday 1st June.

It comes after Andy Preston – the Mayor of Middlesbrough – accused Council Leaders who failed to back schools reopening of “chickening out”.

But Councillor Shane Moore – the Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council – says it was important local authorities took a collaborative approach with schools and academies locally to ensure the right decision was made for pupils, families and staff.  

Councillor Shane Moore

Councillor Shane Moore

Councillor Moore said: “In May, Boris Johnson outlined plans for the partial re-opening of schools for pupils in nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

“However, given that Coronavirus cases in Hartlepool were continuing to rise at that stage, we worked with our schools and academies and agreed they would not reopen on Monday 1.

“We were only the second local authority area nationally to take this brave collaborative decision, doing what we felt was right for children across Hartlepool.

“For Mr Preston to suggest we were ‘chickening out’ is quite frankly laughable and it’s also worth pointing out he made these comments at a meeting where his own response to reopening schools was being heavily criticised.

“I must say, deflecting criticism from yourself by pointing the finger of blame elsewhere is not at all helpful in the current climate.

“As we said at the time we announced schools in Hartlepool would not reopen on Monday 1 June, our ambition was to welcome children back when we were confident it was safe to do so and school leaders and staff have done an amazing job with phased reopening’s.

“Ultimately, all local authorities have faced a number of unprecedented challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and have had to take some very challenging decisions at great pace.

“For me, the most important thing is that these decisions should all have been taken with the best interests of our local populations at heart and on this one that’s exactly what we did and I still stand by it.

“Given that COVID-19 has affected different geographical locations at different times, it isn’t a time for us to start to question or deflect criticism on to other local authorities who may well have been working in a very different environment.

“Mr Preston also accused us of letting down our poorest children but I need to be absolutely clear our schools have remained open for key workers and vulnerable children throughout the COVID-19 crisis and – like all areas of the Tees Valley – we are totally committed to doing everything we can to address the education disadvantage experienced by the poorest children.

“Indeed, Hartlepool has been providing strong leadership across all Tees Valley Authorities for a number of years to tackle this issue.

“I would urge Mr Preston to join me in calling on Central Government to provide further funding to support the attainment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.”