TRADE unions in Dorset are urging the council and academy trusts to only reopen schools to more pupils when it is safe to do so.

Since March 23, nurseries, schools and colleges have only remained open to children of key workers and vulnerable children.

But with the government proposing to reopen schools on June 1 for children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, trade unions GMB, NEU, UNISON in Dorset and the Dorset Trades Union Council have joined together to urge schools not to reopen until it is safe to do so.

In a joint statement, they said: "School staff, parents and carers in Dorset are concerned that this will not be safe – that schools can be sites to transmit the coronavirus, and that measures must be in place to protect children and adults.

"The Department for Education has confirmed that 1 June is an ‘aspiration’ and therefore the responsibility for taking the decision about when it is safe to increase pupil numbers will rest with individual schools and the local authority. We note the difficult and stressful position in which our headteachers are placed.

"GMB, NEU and UNISON in Dorset call on Dorset Council and on academy trusts in the county to only support the reopening of schools when it is safe to do so, working with us to put in place measures which can protect teachers, school staff, children and their families. We urge: no return to unsafe schools."

Theresa Leavy, executive director for children, said that Dorset Council anticipates all settings to be able to open to these year groups by June 8.

She said: "We know for some members of our communities they welcome the return to school opportunity and for others there are concerns for the wellbeing of our children and teachers. These are both held at the forefront of our minds.

"We are working on plans with headteachers and managers of all schools and education settings, including our maintained schools, academies and nurseries. Plans include risk assessments looking at safety, staffing availability, space and of course, social distancing measures. We know it’s likely to be a mixed picture on how many children and young people can attend depending on the size of the setting.

"We’re also looking at school transport and school crossing patrols and how, and when, we remobilise.

"Where a setting cannot fulfil the whole offer due to space, they will prioritise in class order according to the guidance from the Department for Education (DfE).

"We have not yet received specific advice around secondary schools and what ‘face to face’ means for Yr10/12.

"Children and young people, or their families who are shielding because they are considered extremely clinically vulnerable, should continue to shield and should not return to their education setting/provider.

"This is a very personal decision for all families and while we want to encourage everyone who can return to school to do so, we will not be issuing fines to parents who choose not to send their child back to a setting.

"Finally, we’d like to reiterate our thanks to all our schools, teachers, education and childcare providers who have throughout these uncertain times been doing an incredible job under challenging circumstances keeping our children at the heart of all that they do."

Aspirations Academies Trust operates two primary schools in Dorset, Bovington Academy and Atlantic Academy Portland. They are delaying the reopening to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 classes until Tuesday, June 2.

A Trust spokesperson said: ''We intend to open our schools from June 2nd to the year groups specified by the government.

''June 1st is being used as a health and safety day for staff so that they can be briefed thoroughly on the new protocols and social distancing measures.

''On June 1st all of our schools will remain open to the children of key workers and vulnerable children, as normal.

''We have followed all Government guidelines set for wider opening/reopening, from social distancing to hygiene, to ensure our schools are safe and manageable and working conditions for both staff and pupils are safe.''

Ambitions Academies Trust was also approached for a comment.