Many parents and carers will have been surprised with the announcement that all schools would close made by Boris Johnson on 4th January 2020, especially when many children had just returned to school that morning. As with the first Lockdown in March 2020, the children of parents who are critical workers, and vulnerable children may still attend school. This has raised the question as to which children fall into these categories. The Government has published guidance on this.
For convenience we have provided the guidance below. What is of note is that the definition of critical worker has been extended to those who are necessary to implement the transition from the EU, in addition to those needed to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic. Also there is currently no cap to the total number of children who fall within these categories that can attend school, as there was in March when no more than 20% of children could be in school on any one day, which led to the rationing of places at some schools. What is also of note is that only one parent/carer in each family needs to be a critical worker in order for a child to qualify for a place.
Also different to the March Lockdown is that those children who are entitled to a place are expected to attend. This is particularly the case for children who are believed to be ‘vulnerable’, and whilst the penalties for absence will not be invoked, parents can expect to be contacted to explain non-attendance. Although clearly the need to shield or isolate will be considered as an appropriate reason for a child not to attend at school. Schools themselves are expected to have better provision for vulnerable children, particularly those with an EHCP where parents can expect their child’s plan to be fully implemented save for occasional periods due to staff absence which need to be resolved as soon as possible.
Parents should also remember that each school will have individual operational requirements which they will need to comply with, such as health and safety legislation, and therefore different schools will implement the Government guidance taking into account their own individual circumstances. This means that some schools are able to take far more children than others and there is considerable variation between schools on both provision and uptake. Parents and carers who would like more information around school and early years opening can find it at the Department of Education website.
For anyone requiring further advice arising out of the issues discussed please contact Vicky Preece.
Government Guidance to those children eligible for school places in lock down beginning January 2014:
Vulnerable children and young people
- Vulnerable children and young people include those who:
- are assessed as being in need under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, including children and young people who have a child in need plan, a child protection plan or who are a looked-after child
- have an education, health and care (EHC) plan
- have been identified as otherwise vulnerable by educational providers or local authorities (including children’s social care services), and who could therefore benefit from continued full-time attendance, this might include:
- children and young people on the edge of receiving support from children’s social care services or in the process of being referred to children’s services
- adopted children or children on a special guardianship order
- those at risk of becoming NEET (‘not in employment, education or training’)
- those living in temporary accommodation
- those who are young carers
- those who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study)
- care leavers
- others at the provider and local authority’s discretion including pupils and students who need to attend to receive support or manage risks to their mental health
- Parents whose work is critical to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and EU transition response include those who work in health and social care and in other key sectors outlined in the following sections. Children with at least one parent or carer who is a critical worker can go to school or college if required.
Health and social care
- This includes, but is not limited to, doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.
Education and childcare
- This includes:
- support and teaching staff
- social workers
- specialist education professionals who must remain active during the coronavirus (COVID-19) response to deliver this approach
Key public services
- This includes:
- those essential to the running of the justice system
- religious staff
- charities and workers delivering key frontline services
- those responsible for the management of the deceased
- journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting
Local and national government
- This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of:
- the coronavirus (COVID-19) response, and the delivery of and response to EU transition
- essential public services, such as the payment of benefits and the certification or checking of goods for import and export (including animal products, animals, plants and food), including in government agencies and arms length bodies
Food and other necessary goods
- This includes those involved in food:
- sale and delivery
- as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines)
Public safety and national security
- This includes:
- police and support staff
- Ministry of Defence civilians
- contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and EU transition)
- fire and rescue service employees (including support staff)
- National Crime Agency staff
- those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas
Transport and border
- This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the coronavirus (COVID-19) response and EU transition, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass and those constructing or supporting the operation of critical transport and border infrastructure through which supply chains pass.
Utilities, communication and financial services
- This includes:
- staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure)
- the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage)
- information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the coronavirus (COVID-19) response
- key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services)
- postal services and delivery
- payments providers
- waste disposal sectors
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