SCHOOLS in Warrington are not yet safe for students and staff to return on Monday, says Unison.

The trade union's Warrington Local Government branch, which represents teaching assistants and other school support staff, has warned Warrington Borough Council that its schools are not ready for an expansion of pupil numbers from next week.

The local authority made the decision to open schools from June 8 for early years, reception, year one and year six children, after safety measures were put in place.

However, exact opening dates for schools vary, with some multi-academy trusts in the area welcoming back pupils later this month on June 15 and 22.

Unison now says that necessary health and safety action has not been taken in Warrington, with only one school in the whole borough showing them a completed risk assessment.

UNISON Warrington Local Government branch secretary Jason Horan said: "When the local authority announced the expansion of pupil numbers would take place on June 8, we raised the reasonable concerns of school support staff.

"With just two days until many of our members will be expected to return to work, it is clearer than ever that Warrington schools will not be safe for students and staff on Monday.

"We call on the council to reconsider its decision and for local schools to work with us on urgently developing robust risk assessments which will help keep our communities safe.

"We have alerted our members that Unison has not been consulted by schools, and therefore school cleaners and caterers, teaching assistants and other support staff may be at risk."

As well as these concerns, Unison is also calling on Warrington Borough Council to complete an Equality Impact Assessment given the virus’ disproportionate impact on BAME communities.

Meanwhile, Warrington Borough Council has said every precaution has been made to create safe school environments.

A spokesperson for the council said: "We are working closely with our schools to welcome more children back to school, starting with our primary schools from June 8.

"The safety of children and our staff is paramount.

"All of our schools have completed comprehensive risk assessments, to ensure the safety of children and staff as far as possible.

"All schools have been provided with PPE by the council and will be supported by enhanced cleaning regimes.

"The schools who will be welcoming additional staff and children from Monday will brief both staff and their pupils on the arrangements that have been made to support them to return to school.

"Children and teachers will work in small groups known as ‘bubbles’ to maintain social distancing and we continue to take advice from Public Health England to ensure that the decisions we make continue to be evidence-based.

"The R rate in Warrington remains below the national and north west average.

"Schools have been contacted by parents who are keen for their children to return, but we also recognise that some parents will choose for their children not to return.

"We would like to reassure parents who are planning on taking their children to school on Monday that every precaution has been made for them to come back to an environment which is as safe as possible."