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Sat, 6 June 2020

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Teaching unions question the size of government's 'key workers' list and warn schools may not cope

Teaching unions question the size of government's 'key workers' list and warn schools may not cope
3 min read

Teaching unions have hit out at the size of the Government's list of "key workers" whose children can still go to school from next week.

Frontline health care staff, delivery drivers and the police are among the list of workers deemed "essential" to the coronavirus response.

Other professions listed by the Department for Education include civil servants, journalists and those in the transport industry.

In addition, schools will also be open from Monday for vulnerable children, including those whose families have been appointed a social worker and those with special needs who require extra support.

However, the schools will only be operating with a skeleton staff after ministers across the UK ordered them to close their doors from Friday afternoon in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.

Teachers' leaders said staff on duty may end up being swamped unless parents follow the Government's advice to only send their children if they have no alternative.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint-general secretary of the National Education Union, said: "This is a very long list and could result in some schools having the majority of pupils attending.

"This will not achieve the goal of slowing the spread of the virus.

"So it is vitally important that parents follow government advice to keep their children at home, wherever possible. 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 risk that the virus can spread."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We would appeal to parents on this list to follow the first principle of keeping their children at home if it all possible from Monday onwards, and to only send them to school if there is no safe alternative.

“The key worker list is extensive and schools will not be able to cope with the number of children who could potentially arrive on Monday morning.

"It is important that the public understands that this is not business as usual.

"Schools will endeavor to do their best to provide continuity of learning for all children whether at home or in school, but the provision in school is likely to be more akin to childcare than a normal timetable.

“Schools are working to an incredibly tight timescale to turn round this provision and we would ask everybody to show patience and understanding in this extremely challenging situation.”

But Downing Street insisted the list had been drawn up following "consultation across government" and would not be changed.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "Employees should speak to their employers, people who can work from home should, but those who are central to the coronavirus effort have been deemed as key workers.

"We have been clear that if children can stay safely at home then they should to limit the chance of the virus spreading."

 

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