Union representatives in Lewisham have advised teachers against co-operating with plans to reopen schools on a wider scale from June 1.

The National Union of Education's Lewisham branch stated that schools cannot be made safe within the Government's time-frame, which would put the health of staff, students at the community at risk.

Concerns remain over the lack of a functioning test and trace strategy in the UK, an insufficient fall in coronavirus case numbers and the practicalities of social-distancing in the school environment.

A spokesperson for Lewisham NEU said: "Lewisham NEU believes that it is not currently in the best interests of staff, students or the wider community, to facilitate plans to open our schools to wider numbers of children from June 1.

"The (Government) statement left many unanswered questions on issues such as testing, social distancing and contact tracing.

"The further guidance published by the Government on Monday – which was not negotiated with education unions – does not properly address the health and safety concerns that the NEU has raised about wider opening of schools.

"Our members are continuing to work hard in this crisis, at home and in school, to meet the needs of our children and families and will continue to do so as long as this situation lasts.

"Lewisham NEU believe this a life or death situation and that in order to prevent more unnecessary deaths schools must remain closed to children who are in a position to stay at home and stay safe."

From 1 June, children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in England will be able to return to school if infection rates and the government's other tests at the time allow it.

A poll from teachers' union NASUWT suggested that only 5% of teachers think it will be safe for more pupils to return to school next month.

Last week, Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), told teachers not to attend any planning meetings about schools reopening from June 1.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We want children back in schools as soon as possible because being with their teachers and friends is so important for their education and their wellbeing.

"Plans for a cautious, phased return of some year groups from June 1, at the earliest, are based on the best scientific and medical advice. The welfare of children and staff has been at the heart of all decision making.

"We have engaged closely with a range of relevant organisations, including the unions, throughout the past eight weeks, including organising for them to hear directly from the Government's scientific advisers last Friday, and will continue to do so."