UK

School blasts parents for falsely claiming key worker status to get their child a place in class

Parents have been posing as key workers in an effort to get their children into classes in lockdown – as the Children’s Commissioner for England warned of ‘clear disparities’ in remote learning.

A Liverpool school today said it had received a ‘large number of complaints’ about mothers and fathers making the attempts for their kids. 

Leaders at Our Lady’s Bishop Eton School revealed the alleged issue in a letter which said it received many of the complaints after an online lesson allowed parents at home to see which children were attending class in person.

But it came as the Children’s Commissioner for England said there were huge differences in remote learning opportunities being offered by schools.

Anne Longfield said it was ‘not acceptable’ that some children were unable to learn during lockdown and called for those learning remotely to have daily contact with their teachers. 

Many pupils have to sit at home and access learning and lessons through a laptop or device

Young students at Milton Keynes Preparatory School take part in online lessons this week

Young students at Milton Keynes Preparatory School take part in online lessons this week

The problem in Liverpool saw the school letter say it had been ‘overwhelmed’ with requests for key worker spaces for the latest national lockdown.

Responding to the complaints, the school said: ‘On the application form the school asked parents for as much information as it was able to and has consulted with the local authority with regards to some of the applications.

‘We can do no more; particularly when parents making such allegations will not provide the school with the information necessary to investigate them further.’

The school said that a ‘persistent thread’ in the complaints made it ‘with regards to families who have a parent at home who is able to provide care, eg: working from home, not employed or on maternity leave.’

It added: ‘Again, we would ask that if there is a parent at home, children are kept safe at home and out of the transmission chain.’

Meanwhile a gap between offerings from UK schools has been exposed. 

There is a huge disparity in what lessons are available for children learning at home

There is a huge disparity in what lessons are available for children learning at home

Full list of key workers to tackle the coronavirus pandemic

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.

Gavin Williamson said yesterday any NHS worker – from medical to office staff and cleaners – will all be needed at work during the crisis.

Education and childcare

This includes nursery and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active.  

Teachers and teaching assistants are certain to required as are nursery workers so children of other key workers can be cared for.

Key public services

This includes those essential to the running of the justice system. This is expected to include judges, barristers and staff who keep the courts running including clerks and security. If jury-led trials continue jurors may be entitled to the same status during their duties.

Religious staff are listed, which includes vicars or equivalent in other religions.

Charities who are vital to supporting communities are also listed. The public sector, especially the NHS and social services, are supported by charities who care for people in the community. These workers are likely to be included.  

Those responsible for the management of the deceased, such as undertakers are listed.

Journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting are also key workers because of their work informing the public.

Local and national government

This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response or delivering essential public services such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arms length bodies. 

This is a vague description but this is expected to include council workers such as refuse collectors, planners, environmental health and trading standards staff and workers in frontline roles in departments such as housing and benefits. 

Food and other necessary goods

This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods.

This means that farmers and other food producers will be given support. People working for supermarkets, either in stores, in delivery or lorry drivers taking products to stores are likely to be key workers.

Pharmacists and those delivering pharmaceuticals are also expected to be given key worker status. 

Public safety and national security

This includes police and support staff, vital to running  the police service such as 999 call handlers or those in offices processing criminals or dealing with the Crown Prosecution Service, whose workers could also be classed as key workers. National Crime Agency staff are also listed and workers crucial to national security such as MI5 and MI6 staff are not listed, but will be included.

Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel are listed. There is no more detail, other than saying all workers ‘critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic’. This could cover thousands of MoD roles.  

Fire and rescue service employees, including support staff. Mountain rescue staff and other similar roles will likely be included 

Those considered crucial to maintaining border security at ports and airports are included, as are prison and probation staff.

Transport

This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.

Train, Tube and bus drivers will be asked to work to help key workers get to their jobs.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said today it had agreed with rail operators across the country to scale back timetables from Monday as people change their travel habits to help stop coronavirus spreading.

Core services will continue to run to help people attend medical appointments and allow emergency services and NHS staff get to work.

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 COVID-19 response, as well as 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 and waste disposal sectors. 

SOURCE: Gov.uk website 

Some schools have said they will not do any live sessions at all for younger children – citing safeguarding issues and staffing constraints.

In contrast, others live-stream what is happening in the classroom with the children of keyworkers, including some interaction for youngsters at home.

Others have a structured timetable and live lessons as well as pre-recorded video clips in between.

A number of schools are reporting a higher turnout of eligible pupils on site – including children of critical workers and those classed as vulnerable – than in the March lockdown, prompting concerns about their ability to balance remote education with in-person teaching.

It came as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson set out his expectations for schools during the latest lockdown.

He said parents can contact Ofsted if they are unhappy with the offer and have previously raised concerns with their headteacher.

Ms Longfield said: ‘Every child has the right to a good education and it is not acceptable that some children are unable to learn, through no fault of their own, because of a lack of technology, or because their home circumstances prevent them being able to work effectively.

‘There are also clearly disparities between what schools are offering children in terms of remote lessons.

‘I want the Government to commit to ensuring that all children have access to technical equipment and broadband to support remote learning, alongside an urgent review of guidance for schools to ensure make sure that children receive a broad and balanced curriculum, whether at home or at school.

‘As a minimum, those children learning remotely should have daily contact with teachers.

‘We know the negative impact the last long lockdown had on the wellbeing of many children and I want to see a speeding-up of the process of introducing mental health support and counselling in every school.’

Mr Williamson told the House of Commons on Wednesday that the schools watchdog will enforce legal requirements for state schools in England to provide high-quality remote education during the lockdown.

He said schools are expected to provide between three and five hours of teaching a day – and if parents feel their child is not receiving enough learning they should complain to the school first and then ultimately to Ofsted.

The Department for Education said it expects schools to have a digital platform, such as G-Suite or Microsoft Education, and to provide at least some of their remote teaching via video lessons – this can be done by school-led videos or using other providers like Oak National Academy.

Mr Williamson confirmed that children who do not have access to technology are seen as vulnerable and can attend school in person during the national lockdown.

One thread on the Mumsnet website showed that parents are concerned about the disparities in learning.

‘I’m concerned about DD falling behind compared to the keyworker children in her class who are being taught by the teacher,’ one parent wrote.

Another said: ‘There seems to be big disparities in what the offers are.’

One parent said they felt ‘so disheartened’ with the offer from their school, writing: ‘I have a Year 6 who’s had a maths worksheet and two bite-size clips to watch today.

‘It’s the same provision as the last lockdown.

‘I’m so disappointed; I thought it would be better this time round.

‘Then I read on here about other primary age children having live lessons and a more structured timetable and it makes me so disheartened.’

Another said: ‘My Year 5 son is getting three 30-45 minute live lessons per day (his teacher working from home, with his children at home) plus the accompanying work, plus reading.’

And one parent said: ‘Unfortunately we are just getting worksheets and links to bite-size.’

MailOnline reported on Tuesday how experts have warned of serious problems developing as England enters its third national lockdown, with one declaring ‘The pandemic has created a mental health ticking time bomb’.

Draconian measures designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus variant will heavily impact many during the gruelling winter months.

Depression, anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are expected as the restrictions create a sense of terrible Deja Vu.

The blow comes especially hard due to the proximity of New Year, where many had believed the start of 2021 would signal more optimistic fortunes.

Michael Gove said the curbs on freedom would last for months, triggering more gloom among the public. 

And children – after being told schools would be safe – face difficult home-learning after the U-turn by Boris Johnson and his government.

During his coronavirus news briefing today, the Prime Minister said approximately £12billion had been spent on NHS mental health care, with around another £19-20million contributed towards mental health charities.

Emma Thomas, Chief Executive at YoungMinds told MailOnline: ‘The pandemic is deepening the crisis in young people’s mental health and there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the impact could be significant and long-term.

‘Young people tell us that they’ve struggled to cope with the changes and loss of coping mechanisms brought on by the pandemic, with many experiencing social isolation, anxiety, and fears around their future.

‘Many lost access to mental health support during the first lockdown, while others chose not to look for help at a time when the NHS was under so much pressure. With the pandemic continuing through the winter and another lockdown confirmed, it’s likely that more young people may struggle to cope.’


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