PARENTS have been assured that they have a choice about whether to send their children back to school today or not.

The MP for Barrow said ‘there is still the option for individual schools and parents to make their own call here’ as primary schools in Furness prepared to welcome back reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils.

Simon Fell’s comments came as a Mail online poll revealed that only 27 per cent of residents felt comfortable sending their children back to school today.

The poll of nearly 300 people revealed the safety concerns parents and guardians still have due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The survey showed just 77 respondents (27 per cent) saying they were comfortable with their children going back to school today, while 204 (73 per cent) said they are not.

One participant, June Eccles, said: “As a Nana it’s a no from me...too soon”.

Another, Debbie O’Connor, said: “Too early to be safe.”

But Kirsty Fegan said: “I think it’s needed for the well-being of their mental health and we need to get back to some form or normality now.”

The Government has said there will be no penalty at the moment if parents decide not to send their children back although they are ‘actively encouraged’ to do so.

Mr Fell told The Mail: “Most governors and parents I’ve spoken with are in favour of reopening.

"The bottom line is there is still the option for individual schools and parents to make their own call here.”

A Cumbria County Council spokesman also said: “The council’s key message for parents is that there will be different arrangements in different areas – so it is vital that they carefully read the communications from their child’s school about what is happening locally.

"Individual schools will make their own decisions about reopening following a risk based assessment process. Support will continue to be available to schools from the council and from public health experts.

"The safety, health and wellbeing of all staff and pupils is of paramount importance.”

St Pius X Catholic Primary School posted a video on its Facebook page showing its preparations including socially distanced classrooms, new signage with instructions on staying safe and hand sanitiser.

Some schools will be opening to vulnerable children or children of key workers only, while others have said they are not ready to reopen at all.

Cllr Sue Sanderson, Cumbria County Council cabinet member for schools and learning, outlined some of the challenges educators and local authorities have been experiencing ahead of today's reopening date. 

She said: “A number of local schools in my area haven’t been able to reopen due to staffing issues.

"For a lot of schools in Cumbria, the main challenge will be buildings.

"Many are Victorian and have such narrow corridors that it would make social distancing very difficult in practice.”

Teaching unions, which have been at the centre of a bitter row with the Government over its plans to reopen schools this month, last week set out five tests it believes need to be fulfilled before schools can safely reopen.

At the weekend, a National Education Union spokesperson said: “School leaders, their staff and families deserve better than this.

"Even at this late stage, we call on the government to draw back from wider opening of primary schools from Monday.”