Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
“All schools will now be closed except for vulnerable children and those of critical workers. If your work is not critical in the response to Coronavirus then please keep your child at home. This will help to halt the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.
“We have asked parents to be responsible and keep their children at home to help schools focus on supporting those who need a place most – vulnerable children and workers critical to our response to coronavirus.
“Early indications are that the number of children attending school today is low, and we thank parents for making the right choice and playing their part in our fight against coronavirus. People must do everything they can to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.
“We are closely monitoring the situation on the ground and will continue to work with local authorities to ensure schools get the help and support they need over the challenging weeks and months ahead.”
Thank you to the teachers and staff in schools across the country this morning – you are part of our vital front line in the fight against coronavirus.
— Gavin Williamson (@GavinWilliamson) March 23, 2020
Vast majority of children should stay at home and not be in school: Schools should only remian open to those whose parents are key workers
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“Teachers, school leaders and support staff are on the front line, looking after the children of key workers and vulnerable children.
“But they can only do this vital work if everyone plays fair.
“The vast majority of children should stay at home. This is the safest place for them.
“Gavin Williamson has said that schools opening during the crisis should have no more than 10% of their normal intake. We think this is the right percentage, because it will enable schools to implement social distancing strategies for children old enough to understand why this is important.
“If schools are to limit their intake during the crisis, school leaders and teachers must exercise their professional judgement. There may have to be some difficult conversations with parents including telling parents that the school cannot accommodate their children and remain safe.
“Children who have one parent as a key worker should remain at home. Their other parent should look after them.
“Staff who are in the high risk categories should not go into school.
“Staff who are living with relatives in the high risk categories should not go into school.
“Other staff should attend on a rota agreed between staff and head.”
Commenting on the action needed to keep staff and young people safe in schools and colleges that have remained open, Mary continued:
“In less than three weeks, according to our country’s current trajectory, we will be in the same situation as Italy.
“Our priority as a Union is to our members and the children and young people they work with. We are concerned that Government advice for schools is not currently strong enough. We have got to get on the front foot if we are to slow transmission and flatten the curve.
“This means testing of all education staff, and that no one at heightened risk attends schools and colleges from today. No staff should attend who are vulnerable or would go home to family who are vulnerable. We also need to see coherent rotas for those who continue to go to their place of work.
“Virus testing must be available to schools that remain open. With so many parents on the key worker list, this means an extensive effort is required to make sure every school can access the tests. This is no time for half-measures.
“Government protocols on distance and hand-washing for children have to ensure safety. The vast majority of children are themselves at low risk but are nonetheless carriers, so we must ensure that intensified cleanliness and minimised exposure rapidly become the norm in those schools which are having to remain open.
“We are liaising with the Department for Education to ensure action is taken on all of these points. If we are to help the community, which we should, we need maximum protection from the Government. Our members’ lives are doing enormously brave work right now. As with NHS workers, they are putting themselves at risk. Our ethical responsibility is to them. The NEU will do everything in its power to protect members at this critical time.”
This guidance covers children:
- supported by the child social care system
- with education health and care (EHC) plans
- in alternative provision (AP) settings
Throughout, we define ‘school’ as either maintained by the local authority or a single (or part of a multi) academy trust.Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in