Following the Prime Minister’s announcement this week, City of York Council has been working with the Department for Education, schools and early years settings across York to set out a plan.
As you will know, many schools and settings are impacted by reduced staff levels as individuals follow government advice to self-isolate, to help slow the spread of COVID-19. In response to this, schools and settings must remain open whilst managing lower numbers of staff.
Schools, colleges, nurseries, childminders and other registered childcare settings will remain open for children of key workers and vulnerable children where they can.
It is important to note that all childcare and educational settings remain safe places for children. So the fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society.
The Government is advising that ‘every child who can be safely cared for at home should be’. Their latest information for parents and carers is available online.
Cllr Ian Cuthbertson, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education, said;
Whilst we are all adapting to new ways of living and working, it is important that our children and young people get the best support and care we can give them. They too will need to change their daily routines, habits and also how they connect with friends, which is likely to be online rather than face to face.
"The latest government advice should ensure that our schools stay open for the children who need it most. However, we appreciate that for most parents their children will now have to be cared for at home.
We want to encourage parents to keep in touch with their children’s schools by visiting their websites. They can also connect online with the many other families in similar situations to share ideas and resources, so as to keep children healthy, active and learning whilst the school curriculum is suspended."
Children attending school
The government’s plan is to keep schools open for:
- The children of key workers who cannot safely keep them at home (more on what this means below),
- children who have a social worker and those with education, health and care (EHC) plans.
In order to continue to provide staff for key services such as health care and public services, schools and settings will remain open for children whose parents are key workers and whose children cannot be safely looked after at home whilst they are at work. These children can continue to attend school or setting on 23 March 2020.
Key workers include (this information can also be found at gov.uk):
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 distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.
Education and childcare
This includes childcare, support and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.
Key public services
This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.
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.
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 (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).
Public safety and national security
This includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel, fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.
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.
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.
If you think you fall into one of the key worker categories, you should confirm this with your employer. They will confirm if you are essential to their business continuity plans and service delivery. If you are unable to care for your child at home, they can attend school or a setting.
Your school will contact you with detail of provision for its children. This information will also be available on their website.
If you school or childcare setting is closed, please contact:
Free school meals
We know that free school meals are important for many families. The Department for Education has agreed to give schools the flexibility to provide vouchers or a meal service for those eligible for free school meals. Your school will provide you with details of its system.
It is important that children who have conditions which may make them more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 symptoms do not attend school if they can be looked after at home and follow the government advice for vulnerable people which includes strict social distancing and potential social isolation (or cocooning). Detail of which conditions this refers to can be found below.
It is also key at this time that, as we make appropriate child care arrangements, that children are not cared for by a vulnerable person who is advised to implement strict social distancing or isolation measures at this time to protect them during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The government has advised that people with an autoimmune condition or with a compromised immune system are will now need to isolate themselves, being referred to as cocooning. Those with lesser underlying conditions should be stringent with social distancing measures.
For more information on what social distancing and social isolation (or cocooning) include, please see the latest government guidance:
We have noted below these groups and whether they are being advised to cocoon or socially distance themselves. These include those who are:
Advised to follow stringent social distancing measures:
- aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
- under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (i.e. anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
- chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
- chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
- diabetes Type 2
- being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)
- those who are pregnant and not yet in their third trimester.
Advised to isolate themselves (cocooning):
- under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below:
- Any condition that means your immune system is compromised, this includes but is not limited to Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, sickle cell disease, HIV and AIDS or a severe chest condition such as cystic fibrosis.
- A weakened immune system as a result of treatment for a condition, this includes but is not limited to chemotherapy, steroid tablets or dialysis.
- those who are pregnant and in their third trimester
It is important to stay up to date with the latest government advice and guidance which can be found at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus.
For York specific advice please visit www.york.gov.uk/coronavirus.