Households With Only One Key Worker Should Not Still Be Sending Their Children To School, Matt Hancock Says
Households with just one parent who is a key worker should not still be sending their children to school, Matt Hancock said (PA)
If one parent is a key worker but the other one isn’t then children from that household should not still be going into school during lockdown, Matt Hancock has said.
The health secretary’s comments come after the department for education was forced to update its guidance after headteachers reported large numbers of pupils still coming to class despite the enforced closure to deal with Covid-19.
Mr Hancock told Sky News: "It's always been the guidance that schools are there for key workers' children where key workers need to have the children in school in order to be able to get to work."
But he sought to clarify the situation after a study this week found one in six primary schools in England reported 30% or more of children were still attending in person this week, far more than in the first week of the March lockdown.
The Cabinet minister added: "For instance, if you're a key worker and your partner doesn't work then you shouldn't be sending your children to school.
“That's clear in the guidance. But of course the reason that we keep schools open for key workers' children is that this is important.
"It is important - for instance - that key workers in the NHS but not just the NHS - can get to work and so it's a very difficult balance to strike.
"I understand that more people are sending their children to school than they did last time. But we really do need everybody who works in the NHS where at all possible to be able to make it to work.”
Last week the government made it clear to school leaders that they could not limit places for the children of key workers, and that one parent’s status was enough for eligibility.
But the education department then updated its guidance on Friday evening, and advised parents and carers of children who are eligible for a school place that they should keep them at home if at all possible.
It said: “Parents whose work is critical to the coronavirus 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, but parents and carers should keep their children at home if they can.”
Mr Hancock also tried to explain why Boris Johnson said that schools were safe for children, but had to close because they were “vectors” for transmission of Covid-19.
Speaking on Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme he said: "Schools are safe for children. The risk to children is extremely low and there's no evidence of more teachers catching Covid than any other profession. So that means schools are safe.
"But the challenge is that because children often catch it asymptomatically - I mean adults do too right, a third of adults who get Covid don't have any symptoms at all but do pass it on.
"With children that proportion is much, much higher and so schools can still cause spread while being safe for the children who are in.
"So that's the precise explanation for why the Prime Minister was right to say schools are both safe but they do contribute to the spread which is why unfortunately we have had to close them."