Coronavirus: Teachers fear 'challenging' day as schools re-open for children of key workers

Teachers are prepared for a ‘challenging’ situation amid concerns more pupils than expected could turn up to schools today despite them being officially closed as the UK fights to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Monday, 23rd March 2020, 6:30 am
Updated Monday, 23rd March 2020, 6:30 am

Parents have been warned they could be in for ‘difficult conversations’ if they take their children to school when they have an alternative means of ensuring they are looked after.

The Department for Education has urged parents to keep their children at home unless their work is deemed ‘critical’ to the country's response to Covid-19 and they have no other childcare option.

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Schools are set to open today for the children of key workers needed in the fight against coronavirus

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It said that, if required, schools can ask for ‘simple evidence that the parent in question is a critical worker, such as their work ID badge or pay slip’.

The Government said children of so-called key workers - including medics, police and food distribution staff - are able to attend school so they can be looked after while their parents help in the fight against the virus.

Guidance, issued on Friday, listed the relevant occupations and said children with ‘at least one parent or carer’ who is considered critical ‘can attend school if required’.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said sending a child to school is an emergency measure which should be seen ‘as a last resort’.

He said: “It is likely that more children than expected will turn up at school and that there may be less availability of staff if more have had to self-isolate or have become ill over the weekend.

“So, the situation will be challenging today, and it will take some time to establish a more settled pattern.”

He said parents need to be prepared that schools will have to prioritise and that not every child will get a place, a sentiment echoed by the National Education Union (NEU).

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “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.”