Coronavirus: Plans made to look after children of workers key to fighting pandemic if schools close

Coronavirus: Plans made to look after children of workers key to fighting pandemic if schools close


Coronavirus: Plans made to look after children of workers key to fighting pandemic if schools close 1

Schools have begun making preparations for prioritising the attendance of children of key workers if they are forced to close as the coronavirus pandemic worsens.

School surveys have been sent to parents to identify whether they work in the emergency services, such as the NHS, so they can help support them in the event of wider closures, The Independent understands. 

It comes after the National Education Union (NEU), the largest teaching union in Europe, has called on the government to ensure some schools remain partially open to children of key workers. 


School leaders have already begun making contingency plans to ensure that vulnerable children and children of public sector staff will still be able to access support amid potential school closures.

Headteachers have also written to the education secretary asking for permission to support pupils who need free school meals if closures are to take place.

They want to provide supermarket food vouchers to families using the government cash provided to them to pay for meals.

The preparations come despite the fact that government advice is still urging schools to remain open. 

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Schools are identifying the children of key workers, as well as vulnerable children, so that they are able to provide them with continuity of learning and support in the event of a wider school closure.

“With significant numbers of teachers self-isolating, schools are endeavouring to ensure that available resources are targeted where the need is greatest.”

He added: “It is clearly becoming increasingly difficult to keep schools open and we now urgently need some clear strategic planning from the government.

“The priorities must be how we continue to support pupils whose parents are key workers, and those in vulnerable groups, such as children who receive free school meals.”

A letter from the NEU general secretaries to Boris Johnson on Tuesday called for school closures “at least for some time and at least in some areas” amid staff shortages. 

But the union suggests schools could partially open to children of NHS staff, food and distribution workers, police, prison and fire brigade staff, and those who are working to produce medical equipment. 

Schools could also open their doors to children in need and children on free school meals or in food poverty so they can eat nutritious meals, the union recommends. 

“We know that very many of our members who aren’t in the categories of heightened risk would be willing to volunteer to play a role in helping our society get through this crisis,” the NEU bosses say. 

Addressing concerns about school closures at a conference of headteachers in Birmingham on Friday, education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The chief medical officer has said the impact of closing schools on children’s education will be substantial, but the benefit to public health would not be. 

“The government is particularly mindful of the strain on public services like the NHS that would be caused by key workers having to stay home to look after their children as a result of school closures.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We recognise schools are facing numerous challenges as a result of coronavirus, and we are continually reviewing how best to support them.”

Mr Williamson met with organisations representing school leaders on Monday to ensure the outbreak has the least possible impact on children’s education, they added.


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