Coronavirus Update 9 – Updated Key Worker Information

Dear parents/carers

As you know this is our last day to be open for some time. The Government has made it very clear that the safest place for children to be is at home, in fact the safest place for everyone and that is why they have closed all schools in England. We have to follow all advice to rid the county and the world of this awful virus.

The Government issued the key worker list after midnight last night, which was not helpful or supportive of either schools or parents/carers.

The list is much more extensive than we were led to believe and also went against what we had been told which was both parents in a two adult household would need to be key workers. We know this may have caused some confusion or worry, but we had little or no information. However, the latest guidance at 8am, says priority will be given where both parents are key workers. This means unless both parents are key workers it is unlikely you will be offered a place.

The guidance is very vague and not particularly useful to anyone to plan in such extreme circumstances, but what is very clear is all children that can be cared for at home and not be in school should be. The only way to stop the spread of this disease is to not have social contact and to isolate and socially distance ourselves. This is a serious situation, we cannot express that enough. If you send your children in they are at risk of being exposed to a virus that can be fatal. This is not us scaremongering, it is the truth.

The guidance says that if workers think they fall to the critical categories on the document they should confirm with their employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service.

If staff have to self isolate for any reason, then we may not be able to continue. We already have staff who cannot come in because they have an underlying health condition or because members of their family have symptoms or they have another illness. Therefore it is vital we only have those in school who absolutely need to be.

This clearly puts our staff more at risk than anyone would like to, but we know how important it is that our frontline staff, such as those working in hospitals and surgeries, can work as none of us know when we may need them. Our staff are committed to helping and supporting in such cases and their commitment goes above and beyond the call of duty.

We also know many grandparents care for children or bring them to school, but we also know that many of our Grandparents do not fall at all into the over 70s age range where they would be considered vulnerable and unable to support. Our family networks are vital at this time, as are our friendship and community networks.

Therefore, for those eligible:

  • Although the guidance says only one parent now has to be a key worker, if the other parent/adult in the household does not work, please do not ask for a place as this would be morally wrong and unnecessary. New guidance says to prioritise where both parents are key workers as set out above and this is what we will be doing.
  • If you can make alternative arrangements for your child to be looked after outside of school, even if you are a key worker, then please do. They are safest at home.
  • If your shift does not cover the school day, then please do not send them to school. If both parents are key workers and are not in work during the school day, then please do not send children to school. This is aimed at supporting those who have to work with the most vulnerable to be able to continue to do so.

The less children we have, the less likely they are to come into contact with the virus and the more likely we are to be open. This is about a worldwide spread of a fatal disease. We are not shut because it is snowing or we have no heating!

The Government have told people not to go to pubs or restaurants and many restaurants have closed down – they would not do this unless there was a real risk. Yet we could have 200 or more children in our building, bigger crowds than most pubs or restaurants so the very real risk here is clear to see.

The council has closed the libraries from Saturday, most Norfolk County Council staff are working from home, social workers are working from a distance. Everyone has adapted their work to try and stop this virus and as much as we know it will be difficult for everyone who has to work, please be sensible about this and think of the health of the wider community. Many staff here have older parents who are vulnerable, family members with medical conditions that makes them more vulnerable if they catch the illness and have been working non stop to try and support families. If we go down, there is no provision. We know if you are working from home it is difficult with children, but it is the new normal and we all have to adapt to keep us safe and well.

The guidance is here

Parents:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers

Schools, Colleges and Settings:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

We will not have staff cover for the Easter holidays or be able to provide this provision then. We will be sharing our lists with Hoots and they will most likely be able to offer provision for the Easter holidays at a charge as usual for those who meet the key worker criteria. Please contact them directly and they will discuss it with you but we must stress that this will only be for those on the agreed school list.

We will only be able to offer a fixed number of spaces, based on staffing available and as that may change day to day we could have to cancel some or all groups of children attending in school hours. We may have to prioritise the list, so if there are too many children for us to safely manage we may not be able to offer a space even if you meet the criteria, but we hope by people being sensible and considering others that will not be necessary. We will only run a normal school day. Hoots may be able to maintain a breakfast and after school club for those on our list who are attending school.

If we have to close the guidance says please contact your local authority who will seek to redirect you to a local school in your area that your child, or children, can attend.

Please help us stop the spread by only requesting access to a place in school if you meet the criteria and have absolutely no choice. The safest place for children is to be at home.

We will be sending out a live form today hopefully to parents given to us by Norfolk County Council for parents to respond to only if they meet the criteria and have no other options for childcare. A response is also required for children who currently have an EHCP and for children with a designated social worker. Please note we await this form from them.

As currently, any child displaying any of the symptoms or if a family member has symptoms will not be allowed to attend and will have to go home for 14 days, even if a parent is a key worker. I hope you can see why it is vital we don’t abuse this scheme, we could be preventing a nurse, doctor or other frontline medical staff from being available to treat you. The advice is still for those with an underlying condition such as asthma to not attend and to social distance at home, this guidance also still stands. the implications for anyone in that category, who may be more vulnerable to catching it, are extremely serious. If a child has an EHCP and needs specifically trained staff, we cannot guarantee we will have that support available if staff are not able to be in.

We will then try our best to create a list and will let you know if we can offer a space but please do not assume this is the case. We are doing our very best, so please support us in what is a very difficult and challenging task in exceptionally unusual and serious times. Please be patient.

The guidance is clear: If children can stay safely at home they should limit the chance of the virus spreading. That is why the Government has asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible and schools to remain open absolutely for those who need to attend. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.

Keep safe and well, look after each other.

Joanna Pedlow