The leader of Harrow Council said schools should reopen when they “feel it is safe to do so” as the row about workplace safety continues.

Cllr Graham Henson said the health of staff and pupils must be a priority but stopped short of joining a list of councils that said they will go against government plans to welcome some students back on June 1.

At least 13 councils advised against the Government’s intention to reopen schools in England to pupils in nursery and reception years, as well as those in Year 1 and Year 6, at the start of next month.

Ministers also announced plans to provide “some face-to-face teaching” to pupils in Year 10 and Year 12 to help them prepare for exams but some local authorities – such as Calderdale, Liverpool, Bury and Hartlepool – believe it is too early to do so.

Cllr Henson expressed sympathy with parents and teachers over the situation and, while he did not go against the Government’s position, reiterated that decisions will be made based on “thorough assessments”.

He said: “With the Government’s announcement to reopen schools it is natural that parents will have a level of anxiety and worry.

“Our biggest priority will always be the safety of our residents – and that includes our school children.

“We have made it clear to schools that we expect them to open when they are ready and feel that it is safe to do so, and they have my full support.

“Their preparations to increase the number of pupils attending will be based on a thorough assessment and to a timetable that they will judge is safe for our pupils.

“I am so proud of the way our schools have operated throughout this crisis, and I want to thank all our teachers and staff who have worked so hard to ensure children can continue their education in a safe environment during what has been a challenging time.”

In neighbouring Brent, councillor and teacher Jumbo Chan called on his colleagues to support several teachers’ unions in opposing the Government’s plans to reopen schools until it is “demonstrably safe to do so”.

A spokeswoman for Brent Council explained that decisions on the wider reopening of individual schools would be taken by the “appropriate authority” – most likely the respective governing or trust boards.