EDUCATION bosses say they are now advising headteachers in Bury to reconsider opening their schools to Year 6 pupils on Monday after latest coronavirus figures were released.

Cllr Tamoor Tariq, the borough council's schools cabinet member and deputy leader, is urging heads to think again after the 'R' rate, the number used to describe the relative spread of Covid-19, was scored on average at above 1.0.

Until now primary schools were expected to to reopen for their oldest juniors on Monday, with reception and Year One youngsters going back towards the middle of the month.

But in a social media post yesterday, Cllr Tariq said: "Given news today about NW R value linked to Covid-19 now going over 1, our local authority has written to Headteachers advising schools who intended to re-open on 8th June to now reconsider until we can be more assured that the rate of infections is reducing to below 1."

Some Bury schools, such as Bury Catholic Prep and Bury Grammar, have reopened to primary age pupils already this week, under strict precautions, including social distancing provisions, one way circulation systems and hand sanitisers.

Bury become one of the most high-profile opponents of the government's intentions to return reception, Year 1 and Year 6 students back to classes on June 1.

Cllr Tariq toured national radio stations to defend the approach but Conservative rivals branded the move as "political".

Speaking at Friday's Downing Street press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there was a "challenge" in both the north-west and the south-west of England regarding the spread of the disease.

However, he said that the PHE and Cambridge study suggesting the higher R number in some regions needs to be looked at "in the round" with other data.

He said: "The discussion of the higher R in the North West and the South West that's estimated compared to the rest of the country is an important part of moving towards a more localised approach rather than a national approach to the lockdown.

"It's very important that you look at all of these studies in the round.

"The study you mentioned is one, but the overall assessment that is brought together by (official monitors) Sage that advises the chief medical officer is the one that I look at."

He added: "What I do is look at all of these different studies and the overall view of Sage is that the R is between 0.7 and 0.9 and it is higher in the south-west of England and the North West but it remains below one in each area.

"That doesn't take away from the need that we spot and crack down on localised outbreaks."