Manchester Council has said it is ‘highly unlikely’ schools in the region will be reopened on June 1st – and across the country it’s expected that around 1,500 schools will defy the government’s plans to reopen.
Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, said today that he was not expecting everyone to be back by the date announced by the government, with at least 18 councils vowing to go against the government’s plans.
Government officials announced that schools should prepare to open on June 1st, bringing reception, year one and year six back to schools in reduced class sizes if it is safe to do so.
The government has issued a detailed plan on how to make sure classrooms are safe for both students and teachers. The plan includes offering a maximum class size of 15, keeping desks far apart and ensuring soap is in every toilet.
However, the plan experienced fierce backlash with many unions warning teachers not to go. Councils across the country have said they will not enforce the reopening of schools.
Manchester Council and Salford Council have both said that it is ‘highly unlikely’ that schools in the region will reopen inline with the government’s plan next month.
Elsewhere in Greater Manchester, Stockport Council confirmed its school wouldn’t open until June 10th at the earliest, while Rochdale said they won’t reopen them until it’s safe for kids and staff.
In Bury, the council announced they would not reopen schools ‘while high levels of Covid-19 remain’ in the region.
In a statement, Manchester Council said: “We’re very clear that in any plan the safety of pupils and staff must be absolutely paramount.
“For this reason, in our primary schools it is highly unlikely that children in the government identified priority year groups will be able to attend school full-time from June 1, and may also mean that some schools have to prioritise certain year groups, and not make an offer to them all.”
Manchester’s council executive member for children and schools, Councillor Garry Bridges, said that the announcement from the Prime Minister last week ‘raised more questions than answers’.
He said: “The government guidance is unworkable and it’s highly unlikely schools in Manchester will be open for all children in the prescribed year groups from 1 June as they suggest.
“Most of our schools have in fact been open since the lockdown was enforced to key groups of children, as well as providing home learning and welfare checks. This has included throughout school holidays and in many cases even bank holidays.
“However, rather than follow the government guidance and suddenly increasing the numbers in school to meet arbitrary dates, we’re working with our schools on individual risk assessments to understand how they can safely and gradually over time increase the number of children attending.”
He added: “The government message that ‘schools are reopening on 1 June’ is unhelpful. Manchester parents should only consider sending their child into school from this date if they are contacted directly by their school with the direct offer of a place back in the classroom for their child from then.
“Like all of us I’m worried about the impact on children and young people from not being in school and we all want to see more children back in as soon as they can be, but this needs to be done in a safe, planned, and controlled way.
“We’re in active and positive discussions with our schools and the unions on all of this and will be meeting regularly with them over the coming weeks as their return to school plans are worked through.”
Mr Buckland insisted that the government is ‘working towards’ a June 1st opening date but admitted it was not looking good.
He said: “We always said the 1st of June was conditional, not just on the R-rate but the need to make places of work safe. I am hearing what’s being said by our union representatives and brilliant teachers.
“We have to accept the fact that councils are employers and decisions have to be made collectively.”
There is evidence to suggest that ‘the risk to individual children from Covid-19 is extremely small’, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).
The chairman of the BMA’s Public Health Medicine Committee said: “The BMA wants schools to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so and the evidence allows – this could be before June 1 or after. A zero-risk approach is not possible. This is about ‘safe’ being an acceptable level of risk.”
The government said each school’s circumstances are individual and if a headteacher felt unable to open next month they should ‘discuss options’ with their local authority or trust.
Next announces closure of several stores in blow to high street
The store locations have not yet been revealed
Bosses at Next have announced it is to close 11 stores by the end of the year in the latest blow to the high street.
The retail giant said of the 11 stores set to close: six are not expected to hit their targets, two are down to their locations not being developed, and three are due to agreements not being reached with their current landlords.
However, the names and locations of the 11 stores have not yet been released. The news comes after the company closed its huge store inside Westfield Stratford City, in London.
In a statement, Next Trading said: “We expect to close 11 mainline stores this year.
“Six closures are in locations where we forecast that the store would not achieve our target margin on almost any terms; two closures are due to the site being redeveloped; three further closures are as a result of being unable to agree acceptable new terms with landlords.
“This last category includes one large store where the length of the lease proposed by the landlord, on a high fixed rent charge, was not something we could agree to.”
Since the start of the year, a number of high street chains have announced closures across the UK, including New Look, Boots, Asda Living, Wilko and Iceland.
Some of the closures have been down to a decrease in sales, as more and more households rein in their spending during the cost-of-living crisis. Others were simply down to business decisions.
Boots revealed this year that it plans to shut 300 of its stores while Sainsbury’s, the owner of Lloyds Pharmacy, shared that it will shut its pharmacy sites located within its supermarkets.
Homeware brand Habitat announced it will be closing its last three remaining stand-alone sites while its owner, Sainsbury’s, confirmed its customers were increasingly making purchases online rather than in-store.
Elsewhere, frozen foods supermarket Iceland has closed 11 of its sites though it has not made any announcements to confirm the closures.
Wilko announced they had fallen into administration last month, and had around 400 stores with 12,500 staff before the company collapsed.
Wilko administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers tried to find a buyer for the company, but all deals fell through and it now has dates for 280 of its stores to close by early October, resulting in around 900 job losses.
The remaining 120 Wilko store closures and dates are yet to be announced.
Meanwhile, its rival stores B&M and Poundland have taken on a number of Wilko’s site to rebrand as their own. B&M has snapped up 51 sites and Poundland 71. The deals have not automatically saved Wilko staff working at these sites from job losses, though Poundland has said it will prioritise Wilko staff for job interviews.
Another competitor, The Range has also stepped in and bought the Wilko brand, website and intellectual property. This means it can now sell Wilko products within its stores but does not include any of its physical sites.
Wetherspoons to close 11 more pubs across the country with 33 already gone
Is your local Spoons up for sale?
After 33 closures already this year, Spoons have announced 11 more sites are to call last orders too.
The newest list of closures will affect a number of areas across the country including Todmorden, Moreton and Doncaster.
The budget pub chain previously announced it would be putting some of its pubs up for sale – that were in nearby locations to another existing site – due to the pressure of rising costs and inflation.
But punters don’t need to panic just yet, as the pubs won’t close until they have been sold.
Despite the closures Spoons has also opened branches, including The Square Peg in Birmingham and The Lord Palmerston in Southsea – after undergoing major refurbishments. The chain is also redeveloping pubs in Wakefield, central Cardiff and Glasgow, to the tune of around £8 million.
Wetherspoons currently boasts around 822 branches across the UK and recently announced its busiest-ever Saturday was during the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.
The 11 Wetherspoons pubs now up for sale:
- The Pontlottyn, Abertillery
- The Ivor Davies, Cardiff
- Spa Lane Vaults, Chesterfield
- The Gate House, Doncaster
- The Market Cross, Holywell
- The Regent, Kirkby in Ashfield
- The Mockbeggar Hall, Moreton
- The Hain Line, St Ives
- The Sir Norman Rae, Shipley
- The Sir Daniel Arms, Swindon
- The White Hart, Todmorden
These are just the Wetherspoon locations recently announced to be closing by the chain, but there are dozens more that have already closed this year.
The list of Wetherspoon locations that have closed are:
- The John Masefield, New Ferry
- Angel, Islington
- The Silkstone Inn, Barnsley
- The Billiard Hall, West Bromwich
- Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis, Southampton
- The Colombia Press, Watford
- The Malthouse, Willenhall
- The John Masefield, New Ferry
- Thomas Leaper, Derby
- Cliftonville, Hove
- Tollgate, Harringay
- Last Post, Loughton
- Harvest Moon, Orpington
- Alexander Bain, Wick
- Chapel an Gansblydhen, Bodmin
- Moon on the Square, Basildon
- Coal Orchard, Taunton
- Running Horse, Airside Doncaster Airport
- Wild Rose, Bootle
- Edmund Halley, Lee Green
- The Willow Grove, Southport
- Postal Order, Worcester
- North and South Wales Bank, Wrexham
- The Sir John Stirling Maxwell, Glasgow
- The Knight’s Templar, London
- Christopher Creeke, Bournemouth
- The Water House, Durham
- The Widow Frost, Mansfield
- The Worlds Inn, Romford
- Hudson Bay, Forest Gate
- The Saltoun Inn, Fraserburgh
- The Bankers Draft, Eltham, London
- The Sir John Arderne, Newark
Police issue update in search for missing grandad, 81, from Oldham
Officers are supporting Ronald’s family while they continue the search
Greater Manchester Police have issued an update on Ronald Webster, 81, who went missing from Oldham last Thursday.
The news comes after Ronald’s grandchildren made an appeal to the public asking for help to find their beloved grandad and to ‘keep him safe’ until they, or the police can get there.
It was believed the last sightings of the grandfather-of-five were at 10.52 am on Walkers Road, in Limeside, Oldham and again at 3.45pm as he got off the 184 at Huddersfield Bus Station, on September 14th.
However, police have confirmed a new sighting of the pensioner, known by loved ones as ‘Ronnie’, just minutes later at 3.53pm, as he entered Huddersfield Train Station.
It is believed he may have links to the Bridlington, Whitby and Scarborough areas, although officers have said they are ‘not ruling out that he may have travelled elsewhere’.
Ronald’s family shared that he had recently undergone a triple heart bypass and had medication for his heart and for epilepsy, but that he had not taken any of his medicine with him when he went missing.
His grandchildren said that this is the first time he has not come home.
At the time of his disappearance, Ronald was wearing a blue and black coat with grey trousers.
He is described as 4’11 ins with grey hair around the sides, bald on top, and uses a walking stick.
In an update, a spokesperson for GMP said: “Since Ronald was reported missing, officers have been working closely with his loved ones to understand where he might have travelled to.
“It is believed he may have links to Bridlington, Whitby and Scarborough, although officers are not ruling out that he may have travelled elsewhere.
“Whilst officers are continuing to review CCTV from locations of significance, they are also working with colleagues from other forces to ensure everyone is on the lookout for Ronald so we can help him return to his family safe and well.”
Anyone with information about Ronald’s whereabouts should call 101 quoting 1013 of 16/09/2023.