Hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition calling for parents to be allowed not to send their children to school if they reopen.
More than 430,000 people have signed the petition, which was launched six days ago but has gained traction as Boris Johnson announced that schools might be ready to welcome back pupils by next month.
The proposal was mapped out, among other ideas, in the prime minister’s strategy to ease the coronavirus lockdown.
Speaking on Sunday, he said the government believes “we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages, beginning with reception, year 1 and year 6”.
The petition, which was launched on Change.org by mother Lucy Browne, said parents and guardians should be given the option to refuse to send their child back to school if classes restart.
It had reached 433,214 signatures by 5.40pm on Monday.
“As a mum I don’t want to face serious repercussions for making a choice I feel affects the safety of my daughter during a global pandemic,” Browne wrote.
“The UK now has the highest death toll in Europe and second highest in the world.
“Many of us have lost confidence in the government's handling of this crisis and feel it is too early to return children to schools.
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“It seems it could pose risks not only to children but also teachers and those they live with – grandparents, parents and those (with) underlying health conditions.”
Browne claimed there has been “little assurance” of how any risks coming from reopening schools will be managed, citing parents dropping off and collecting children as chances for the virus to spread between adults.
She called on the government “to be transparent and put things in place before we can consider placing our trust in this decision”.
Meanwhile, immediately after the speech, the National Education Union surveyed its members about Johnson’s plan to restart lessons for some pupils.
Of 49,000 members that responded to its survey, 85% disagreed with Johnson’s plan, while 92% said they would feel unsafe with the proposed wider opening of schools.
First secretary of state Dominic Raab told BBC Breakfast that evidence showed less of a risk of young children getting coronavirus but admitted it could move through them and between households.
“We’re not taking any decisions now on schools, other than vulnerable children or children of key workers,” he said.
“In a phased, conditioned way, and working with the schools, we will make sure we have clear guidance on how that can be done with social distancing and hygiene.
“The evidence suggests there’s much lower risk of young children getting this virus, but the risk is you get transmission through children between households – we’ll have more evidence by the time we get to June 1.
“We’ll be providing that guidance and we’ll able to monitor what happens to the virus between now and then.”