DEVON’S education chief has pledged full support to school leaders for any ‘difficult decision’ over opening on health and safety grounds.

Cllr James McInnes, Devon County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for schools, has confirmed that he will back heads and school leaders in the difficult decisions they have to make.

The Grove School in Totnes, Highweek Primary in Newton Abbot and Pinhoe Primary have also chosen not to open to all but children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Cllr McInnes, said: ‘We support our school leaders in the decisions they are taking on health and safety grounds.

‘If they do not have enough teachers to provide for all their pupils, then it is important that the children of key workers and vulnerable children have priority.

‘The county council is working closely with school leaders and our school improvement service to ensure that effective remote learning is available for all those pupils who may not be able to attend school temporarily.

‘I would reiterate my grateful thanks to all our school staff who have worked so hard over the past nine months to ensure our schools have been able to welcome pupils and provide a good education.

‘Schools are reviewing their risk assessments of their Covid-19 procedures with advice from our health and safety team. 

‘One way to do this is to include our teachers and school staff as top priorities for early vaccination and together with Devon County Council’s chief executive, Phil Norrey, I will be strongly making the case over the next few days.

‘Obviously, the health and welfare of our pupils and staff is our ultimate priority. But it is important to point out that Devon’s rate of infection is currently 144 cases per 100,000 of the population.

‘That compares with England on 422 and some areas in London and the South East where primary schools are being closed altogether which have 800 to 1,000 cases per 100,000 population.

‘There are no grounds for complacency but Devon remains one of the lowest areas in the country for infection and we must also consider the effects on children’s education, mental health and welfare of closing schools.

‘But I can confirm that we will not prosecute parents who have a genuine reason to keep their children off school.’