Schools are ignoring government guidelines and refusing to allow children into class unless BOTH parents are key workers, MailOnline has learned.
Department for Education guidance states that only one parent needs to be a critical worker for their child to attend class – even if both parents are working from home.
It adds parents who are key or critical workers should keep their children at home ‘if they can’.
Schools are ignoring government guidelines and refusing to allow children into class unless BOTH parents are key workers
But head teachers in many areas say increasing pressure on spaces has meant they now have to ‘ration’ places, and many have chosen to prioritise families where both parents are classed as key workers.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has called on the Government to tell heads how many pupils on-site is ‘too many’ as it says high pupil attendance could ‘seriously undermine’ the impact of lockdown and risk longer closures.
In a survey of almost 5,000 heads, nearly half (48 per cent) said they have had to prioritise places for children of key workers or vulnerable pupils in their school ‘due to an excess of demand’.
Nearly three-quarters say that demand for places has ‘greatly increased’ compared to the lockdown in March last year, after the government expanded the list of who qualified as a key worker.
Local Education Authorities are leaving the final decision to head teachers, but Norfolk County Council said in a statement: ‘It is likely that in some schools…both parents are expected to be critical workers, with priority given to those whose parents work in emergency life-saving services.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has urged key workers to keep their children at home if possible
Cllr John Fisher, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, added: ‘Although the national criteria states that only one parent needs to be a keyworker to be eligible for a place, in many schools that would mean nearly every child could still attend and schools simply cannot manage that at this time.’
In Richmond, south-west London, no limit has currently been imposed on key worker children, but Council Leader, Cllr Gareth Roberts, said: ‘We are urgently seeking clarification from the Government about the maximum number who should be in school while protecting public health.
‘We know that for parents it is tough having to juggle home schooling whilst working from home. But, it seems completely illogical that we have such a high number of children returning, given the fact that the Government has taken the drastic action of a full national lockdown precisely in order to limit contacts.’
An Essex County Council spokesperson said in a statement: ‘We have written to parents who are critical workers to ask them to consider if they need to take up a full-time place in school or whether their child(ren) can remain home on some or all days.
‘We need to balance the needs of critical worker parents with ensuring the numbers in a school or college is kept as low as possible. This will support the reduction in the number of contacts children and households have during this time.’
One school in Lincoln, Fosse Way Academy, announced the ‘two key worker’ rule to last week, with parents required to show a letter from their employer or an ID badge too confirm their status.
Headmaster Robert Cowling, said in a message to parents and carers on Tuesday morning he had received over 300 requests for places for children during this lockdown.
He said: ‘This is a huge number, much higher than the original lockdown back in March.
Year 9 student Isla Stanton, 14, begins her home learning in Ashford, Kent. One school in Lincoln, Fosse Way Academy, announced the ‘two key worker’ rule to last week, with parents required to show a letter from their employer or an ID badge too confirm their status
‘Due to staffing issues, and in our efforts to protect all members of the school community whilst offering quality home learning to those children not in school, I am now forced to require both parents to be critical workers before being able to offer a place to a child in school during the current closure.’
A DfE spokesperson said: ‘If critical workers can work from home and look after their children at the same time then they should do so.
‘Otherwise, schools are open the children of critical workers. We expect schools to work with families to ensure all critical worker children are given access to a place if this is required, to enable them to provide vital services. We encourage all vulnerable children to attend.
‘The protective measures that schools have been following throughout the autumn terms remain in place to help protect staff and students, while the national lockdown helps reduce transmission in the wider community.’