Colleges to stay open for 16-18 children of key workers

Coronavirus: Colleges will need to stay open to support vulnerable students up to the age of 18, DfE confirms

Kate Parker

Colleges will need to support vulnerable children up to the age of 18, the government has confirmed

Colleges, like schools, will have to stay open for vulnerable students and children of "key workers" in response to the spread of coronavirus, the Department for Education has confirmed.

The DfE today told Tes that when discussing plans for vulnerable children or children of key workers, young people up to the age of 18 were included.

In a statement in the Commons yesterday, education secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed that schools and colleges would need to close from Friday afternoon.

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He said: "I want to provide staff and parents, students and staff with the certainty they need. After schools shut their gates on Friday afternoon, they will remain closed until further notice.

"This will be for all children except those of key workers and children who are most vulnerable."

He then said that he expected school sixth forms, further education colleges and early years providers to do the same. 

A statement on the DfE website says: “Examples of these workers include NHS staff, police and supermarket delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work to support the country’s fight to tackle coronavirus.

"Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans – a legal document that describes a child’s special educational needs and the support they require.”

A full list of what professions qualify as "key workers" is expected this afternoon. 

David Hughes, the Association of Colleges' chief executive, said: "Colleges are seeking some flexibility in which students are included in the group of vulnerable students and children of key workers. Some 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds may be needed to help at home, for instance caring for their younger siblings. In other cases, it may be better to support young people at home and reduce the risks. In yet other cases, it will be right to support students in college up to age 24. There is no simple blanket rule.

"Colleges will make the best decisions locally for every young person if they have some discretion and apply simple criteria [about safety and health] at a time when increasing numbers of staff are sick or self-isolating. Given the large numbers of young people in both of these groups, colleges may have to prioritise, given the constraints they are operating under.

"We are encouraging colleges to work locally with other colleges, schools and local authority and health staff to get this right. They will be able, collectively, to ensure that key staff in the NHS and emergency services, for instance, are able to go to work safe in the knowledge that their children are secure and happy."

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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