MANY schools in the Cheshire West and Chester area are now not expected to reopen on Monday, June 8, amid fears coronavirus is rising exponentially in the North West.

Schools had been gearing up in the borough to reopen their doors on Monday to a number of year groups as part of a phased reintroduction in the easing of the coronavirus lockdown.

The schools had prepared for their reopening with new social distancing measures, to ensure children and parents could have as safe a return to school as possible, and the acquisition of PPE where necessary.

But the high 'R' number - the figure which measures the coronavirus infection rate in each region - which was made public for the first time at the end of this week, caused concern among school headteachers.

The North West's virus reproduction rate is estimated at 1.01 - the highest in the country and, at that rate, means the virus infection would be spreading exponentially.

Amid urgent talks held on Saturday with Cheshire West and Chester Council, many headteachers sought further clarity on the public health situation with the authority, and recommended schools should not reopen until June 22.

Following talks, Cheshire west and Chester Council has issued letters to parents informing them they would let school headteachers make the final decision, but would not take any action against parents if they did not send their children back to schools which are still reopening on June 8.

In a letter seen by the Chester Standard, Cheshire West and Chester Council leader Louise Gittins said: "We will continue to take a cautious approach, guided by our local public health experts, and in support of our headteachers, their staff, pupils and parents.

"Some schools in our borough had been planning to welcome back a small number of their pupils from Monday, as part of a phased approach.

"We continue to support headteachers to make their own judgement, based on their own schools' circumstances, and with robust plans for social distancing and cleaning in schools.

"We have also reassured parents and children that no action will be taken if they chose to continue to stay at home.

"In discussions today [Saturday] with headteachers, many expressed the need for more clarity about the current public health situation, and that there should now be a delay for two weeks.

"We will therefore support any headteacher who now chooses to delay the phased expansion of their educational offer.

"The children of key workers and vulnerable children will continue to be supported in school facilities."