The importance of caretakers and cleaners in keeping schools open during the coronavirus pandemic has been highlighted by the headteacher of the country’s largest pupil referral unit.
Steve Howell, head of the City of Birmingham School, which has eight separate sites in Birmingham, said he was having to shut down two of the sites tomorrow because two of his caretakers and two cleaners had either fallen ill or were self-isolating.
That's despite still having around two-thirds of his 120-strong teaching staff in school.
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He said: “This is going to sound really nasty, but I hadn’t even thought about them [caretakers and cleaners] but was concentrating on the teachers and TAs I had in school.
"I hadn’t even included them in my totting up, but they are such stalwarts of the school, and you’re always going to need them there.
“To get cover for caretakers is really difficult because of all the keys and alarm codes and everything
“If cleaners go down it’s not feasible to stay open either given the more cleaning they’re having to do because of the virus.”
Mr Howell said the sites, one primary and one secondary, catered for 84 pupils out of a total of 464 children.
He said: “Our attendance has been through the floor anyway because parents are keeping kids off, but for those pupils that are still coming this is a place which is safe and warm and where they can get fed. And we have to keep going for as long as possible for those kids.”
Mr Howell said one of the caretakers is self-isolating as she is on the vulnerable list having recovered from cancer, while the other has symptoms of coronavirus (a cough and temperature).
One of the cleaners was also self-isolating while the other had a cough and temperature.