Commenting on the release by the Local Government Association, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

''We agree with the LGA that publication of the scientific advice is vital to help provide reassurance to the public. The Government keeps citing Denmark and the Netherlands but those countries have experienced far fewer deaths per capita than the UK and therefore aren't suitable comparisons. The UK has experienced 432 deaths per million of the population compared to 85 deaths per million in Denmark.

"Spain and Italy are the countries that have experienced a higher death rate per capita than the UK and both have closed their schools until September. We share the LGA's concern to see the science and are not at all surprised parents are seeking more reassurance. A pediatric specialist group, formed to offer advice in Spain, concluded it would not be safe to open schools until September, as social distancing would be impossible.

"It's very likely that schools are going to open and close at different rates in different parts of the country over the next year, because we may have several cycles of lockdown and ultimately the health and safety obligation sits with an individual head. Heads cannot operate their sites where it isn't safe to do so, including if too many staff are absent because of health or they're shielding others. The NEU thinks the Government hasn't got the right national arrangements in place yet to make this safe, as they haven't even met their own tests. It simply isn't fair to pass the risk and pressure onto individual head teachers.

"We agree with the LGA that we need to give local authorities a leading role. We have concerns that a wider opening of schools, too early, poses a lot of unanswered questions about the risks in poor communities. The DFE has not done nearly enough thinking about the emerging evidence about the racial disparities of the epidemic and what it means for schools with diverse pupil populations."