Today (Friday 20 March) will be the last day for many children at school in England, Scotland and Wales.
Schools will close to everyone except vulnerable children, and those with a parent who are key workers.
The government published a list of key workers whose children can still go to school if they cannot be cared for at home. These workers’ jobs are considered “critical” for the response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The list has been separated into eight categories, including frontline health workers and social care staff, nursery and teaching staff and those involved in food production and delivery.
It also includes the police, those in key public services, transport workers and critical staff in financial services and utilities.
Northern Ireland Education Minister Peter Weir has said all schools should be prepared to cater for key workers’ children when schools shut across the region on Monday
Nurseries, colleges and childminders will also close from Friday.
The government has published a list of key worker jobs:
- Health and social care:Doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, frontline health staff (including volunteers), and those producing and distributing medicines, supplies and protective equipment
- Education and childcare:Teaching staff, nursery workers, social workers and those in special education
- Key public services:Those in the justice system, religious staff, charities, workers delivering frontline services, those responsible for the deceased, journalists in public service broadcasting
- Local and national government:Those essential to the effective delivery of the response to the pandemic, and benefits services
- Public safety and national security:Police and support staff, MoD civilians, contractors and armed forces personnel critical to the virus response
- Transport:Those in air, water, road, rail passenger and freight services and anyone in transport systems through which supply chains pass
- Food and other necessary goods: Those in production, distribution, sale and delivery of food and other necessary goods
- Utilities, communications and financial: Staff in banks, building societies and financial markets, as well as those in gas, oil and electricity sectors, those in network operations and call centres, 999 and 111 staff, postal services, delivery and waste disposal sector
A child only needs one parent to be a key worker to be eligible to attend school.
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.
“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 the risk that the virus can spread.”
The government stressed that “every child who can be safely cared for at home should be” and asked workers to consult their employers to confirm whether “their specific role is necessary”.
Vulnerable children, who will also be exempt, include those who have a social worker and those with special educational needs.
School leaders said the list of key workers was “perhaps more extensive than we might have expected”.