Coronavirus: 'Majority' of schools to stay open

Most schools expected to stay open during coronavirus crisis, and some could have majority of pupils attending

Coronavirus: Will schools really close during the coronavirus crisis?

After the government announced the closure of all UK schools from this Friday, the Department for Education has said that it expects most schools to remain open where needed.

However, the DfE acknowledged that this may be "impossible" for smaller, rural schools. It said that when a school is unable to stay open, it would work with local officials to find an alternative setting for pupils and provide transport arrangements for them.


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The news comes after the government published a list of who qualifies as a "key worker" last night, as the children of workers such as NHS staff and food delivery workers will still be able to attend school, along with vulnerable pupils.

However, headteachers warned that the list of key workers was so extensive that schools would be left struggling to cope with pupil numbers.

The impact of coronavirus school 'closures'

And it has now been revealed that most schools are expected to remain open where needed.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said if many pupils were still attending school it would not help to stop the spread of the virus.

She said the list "could result in some schools having the majority of pupils attending".

She added: "Schools can only accommodate a limited number of children and the fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread."

Doctors, nurses, police, journalists and teachers themselves are on the list of key workers, which has been separated into eight categories, including health and social care, education and childcare, key public services and transport.

Workers involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery are also included, along with "administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the Covid-19 response" in local and national government.

Staff needed for "essential financial services provision", such as bank workers, key telecommunications staff and postal services and delivery workers are also included.

The Department for Education said children with at least one parent or carer identified as critical workers by the government could send their children to school if required.

The department said: "If your work is critical to the Covid-19 response, or you work in one of the critical sectors listed below, and you cannot keep your child safe at home, then your children will be prioritised for education provision."

A Downing Street spokesman said the department had been working closely with the Office for National Statistics in compiling the list of key workers, but could not say how many children were expected to turn up at school next week.

He said staff should speak to their employers to check whether they should come into work if they are unsure whether they are a key worker.

Meanwhile, nursery leaders called for urgent clarity on whether childminders are included on the list, and raised concerns around the financial challenges for nurseries if they have to close.

Many English schools will stop operating on Friday afternoon until further notice, as will nurseries, colleges and childminders.

Special schools are to remain open during the closures.


 

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