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Norfolk education chiefs issue priority warning on key worker school places

Education chiefs in Norfolk say they are drawing up a priority system to determine which children should be offered places in school during the current coronavirus lockdown.

Schools are currently open only to vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers, following the imposition of the latest Stay at Home order this week.

But Norfolk County Council says the increased demand for places may mean that some schools will require both a child's parents to be classed as key workers before they are given a place.

Education chiefs have warned there is greater pressure on school places for key workers now than during the first lockdown.
Education chiefs have warned there is greater pressure on school places for key workers now than during the first lockdown.

Officials say there is more pressure on capacity this time because of factors such as staff sickness and isolation and the strict bubble system.

The authority has also pointed to guidance from teaching unions that staff should work with smaller numbers of children in order to minimise the risk to their own health.

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services, said: “We completely understand how difficult it is for families who are juggling work, childcare and home learning but we would encourage people to keep their children at home if they possibly can.

“Schools are facing huge pressure for places and have limited staff to work in school, due to illness and self-isolation. The restrictions on how classes can be set up are also much stricter with this lockdown.

“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.

“We would ask parents, carers and businesses to do all they can to support schools and the lockdown – it’s vital that staff in the NHS can access places for their children in the current situation and they will have to be given priority.

“We are hugely grateful to those working in schools, academies and the early years who are providing vital support and education to the children of those responding to this pandemic.”

Although it expects there will be variance from school to school on which children receive places, the authority says children who meet the following criteria are more likely to get places:

Both parents need to be critical workers

Parents are NHS workers involved in COVID-19 health response, including vaccinations

Parents who are police and emergency service workers; social care staff, and education staff providing for vulnerable groups and critical worker children.

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