DUDLEY's Labour group has accused the local authority of failing to provide reassurances that children will be safe when schools reopen to some pupils next month.

Councillor Sue Ridney, Labour spokesperson for Children's Services, has raised a series of safety worries that she says need to be addressed before schools reopen.

The concerns come as Dudley Council looks set to reopen schools to children in nursery, reception, year one and year 6 after half term, in line with government guidance.

Earlier this week, Councillor Ruth Buttery who heads education on the council, said schools will reopen to relevant year groups "subject to confirmation from the government on May 28, and in line with the schools own risk assessments and recovery plans."

Responding to the council's plans, Councillor Ridney said: ''I am no clearer about what is going on. The council has known for some time that at some point there would be the opportunity for children to return to school and during the period of the current lockdown, it has had the opportunity to make plans and implement the necessary changes to enable this to happen without exposing children to unnecessary risks."

The Labour Group say the council has not provided worried parents with enough detail about measures that will be put in place to keep pupils and staff safe at school, whether there will be a sufficient number of teachers to ensure a safe return, or what plans are in place to ensure youngsters can socially distance.

The Group added the authority has not made it clear whether parents will be fined if they choose not to send their children back to school.

Cllr Ridney said: "The safety of the borough's children should be the council’s top priority.

"As a responsible opposition, we will continue to support the parents, we will continue to listen to the advice of the experts, and we will continue to insist to the council that children are not exposed to any unnecessary risk. Without any of the assurances about the issues we have highlighted, we do not feel that they will be.’’

Councillor Ruth Buttery, cabinet member for children's services, said it was "disappointing" to see Labour's reaction.

Cllr Buttery stated parents have been regularly updated by schools in the borough and questionnaires have been sent to parents with children in the relevant age groups.

She also pointed out that government guidance states that parents will not be fined for non-attendance at this time

Clr Buttery said: "There is a high degree of confidence that the severity of disease in children is lower than in adults and there is no evidence to suggest that children transmit the virus any more than adults.

"Although our teachers have done an amazing job, with home education, not all children are able to access this or fully utilise this resource, and there is a potential for these children to fall behind and becomes disadvantaged. So class based education needs to be fully restored, which is what the government is doing currently by expanding school numbers from the 1st June.

"It saddens me that the Labour Party would be hindering the educational needs of children for party political gain."