The final decision on whether to reopen Cumbria's classrooms on June 1 will rest with individual schools, the county council has confirmed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced earlier this month that schools could begin to reopen from the start of next month and, following consultation with schools and trade unions, the county council has decided to allow individual schools to determine how and when that will happen.

Children from nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 are allowed to go back to school, in addition to the children from vulnerable groups and children of essential workers who have already been able to attend since the country entered lockdown.

The Government has also asked secondary schools to offer some face-to-face support to supplement the remote education of Year 10 and Year 12 students ahead of key exams next year.

Sue Sanderson, the council's cabinet member for schools and learning, said: “The council has worked closely with schools to provide support and guidance all the way through this situation and the approach to reopening builds on that good work.

“There is such wide variety in our schools in terms of their buildings and the communities they serve that it is sensible for each to make its own decision about reopening, supported by expert advice from the council and public health.

“We all agree that safety is the overriding consideration for schools in their decision about how and when to reopen, and for which groups of pupils as specified by the Prime Minister.

“This means it is absolutely vital that parents and carers read the information provided to them by their child’s school very carefully to make sure they understand the arrangements in their area and to speak to their school if they are unsure.

"Schools will also need patience from parents, as they find a way forward that works for the school and all pupils.

“Cumbrian schools have been fantastic in rising to the challenge of COVID-19.

"The work that has gone on to ensure children’s education is continued and their welfare supported has been exceptional and I have no doubt this will continue as we move into this next stage.”

Councillor Sanderson confirmed that the final decision on whether schools were able and willing to reopen would rest with individual schools.

They will need to consider issues like how to implement social distancing, site safety, availability of staff and resources, transport, emergency procedures and supplies of personal protective equipment before deciding and will be supported by the council and public health experts in their assessment.

Parents and carers will still be able to decide whether or not to send their children back to school and, if they choose not to, will not be penalised.

In a joint statement, Sue Blair, chair of the Cumbria Primary Heads Association and Judith Schafer, chair of the Cumbria Association of Secondary Headteachers, said: “Since the end of March many schools have had to face unprecedented times dealing with the most significant public health crisis we have ever seen.

"It should come as no surprise to anyone who lives in Cumbria that the professionalism and dedication of school staff over the last few weeks has been outstanding in every way.

“We are reassured that the county council are supporting schools to find local solutions that are appropriate for their context, the needs of young people and their communities.

"The challenge for all schools will be to ensure the quality of education remains high within the constraints of risk assessments, including safe staffing levels and PPE.

“Please be assured that schools will continue to work tirelessly for young people and that we are reassured that Cumbria's system leadership will continue provide the much needed support for us all.”