Schools '50% full' during Covid lockdown despite only being open to key workers' children

SCHOOLS in some areas of England are more than 50 per cent full during lockdown despite only being open to children of key workers, says a report.

It comes amid growing calls to limit the number of children in school to prevent further coronavirus transmission.

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All primary and secondary schools remain closed until at least mid-February under current lockdown rules – with only children of key workers allowed to attend.

Only one parent needs to be a key worker for a child to attend school, and those without access to the appropriate technology can also learn on-site, ministers confirmed in the Commons on Wednesday.

Health experts say that the closure of schools, despite the significant impact on children’s education and wellbeing, is vital to bring down the rate of infection.

But parents have been accused of falsely claiming key worker status in a bid to send kids to class, after the Department of Education widened the categories of vulnerable children who can still attend. 

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School & College Leaders, told the Daily Mail: “We are hearing reports that attendance in some primary schools is in excess of 50 per cent because of demand from critical workers and families with children classed as vulnerable under criteria which has been significantly widened.

“We are urgently seeking clarification about the maximum number who should be in school.

“Half of all pupils at Willerby Carr Lane Primary School in the East Riding of Yorkshire are still attending lessons.


“Some 187 children turned up for class on Wednesday in ‘super-size’ bubbles ranging in size from 25 to 32 pupils. 

“Invicta Primary School in Deptford, south-east London, has five times as many pupils still attending compared to the last lockdown.”

Fears of busy classrooms prompted the Department of Education to update its guidance last night to clarify that “children with at least one parent or carer who is a critical worker can go to school or college if required”.

But it adds that these “parents and carers should keep their children at home if they can”. 

The category of key worker has been expanded significantly since the first lockdown, and now even includes Brexit transition staff. 

An accompanying DfE blog encouraged parents “to consider the spirit of lockdown when making the decision” to send kids to class. 

Earlier this week, The Sun reported how mums and dads had inundated Our Lady’s Bishop Eton School in Liverpool with complaints after spotting kids allegedly from families with no key workers at school during a video lesson.

The school also said it had been "overwhelmed" with applications for on-site learning throughout the lockdown, which saw learning moved online for everyone apart from children of key workers and vulnerable kids.

Our Lady’s Bishop Eton School told the Liverpool Echo that they had verified key worker status by consulting with local authorities and asking a rigorous set of questions on application forms.

A letter to students' families said: "We can do no more," adding the situation was further complicated by parents who made the initial complaints refusing to elaborate and provide further details.

It comes as Boris Johnson refused to guarantee that all kids will be back in school before the summer holidays.

In a startling move, the PM only said he “hopes” schools will reopen in the spring once the Covid vaccination programme is well under way.

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday he said: "On whether we can be absolutely sure schools can reopen – we think that with the vaccination programme we can do a huge amount to take the most vulnerable out of the path of this virus.

“That offers opportunities to do things differently.”

The PM said he is full of “optimism and fundamental hope” that he can start to lift the brutal lockdown by the spring.

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