Coronavirus: Schools 'make it up as we go' as they take in key workers' children

Monday 23rd March 2020 05:45 GMT

Chris Edwards, who runs Brighton Hill Community School in Basingstoke, said his school will open with a skeleton staff to around 60 children on Monday whose parents qualify for the childcare but said there has been a real lack of government guidance on how it is meant to work.

"We're making this up as we go along and it is a logistical nightmare... there wasn't a huge amount of clarity and I think there are some unscrupulous people that might take advantage of this for childcare," he said.

"If people send their children to school when they don't really need to be, they're really putting their children and other people's children and our staff in the line of fire which is really what we want to avoid."

Crucially, it is childcare teachers will be providing from now on, not normal lessons. Many schools across England will still be in the process of ironing out exactly how it will work.

The government said some schools might need to group together to pool resources.

But even running with just a skeleton staff, at the very least schools will be required to have a designated safeguarding lead, a first aider and a member of the leadership team present at all times.

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They also need to ensure children can still be fed. Then there's the increased health risk from children and staff not isolating in their homes.

"We're doing everything we can to try to make every decision based on the health and safety of the children and staff team," said Mr Edwards.

"Obviously my members of staff have to return to their families and I don't want to put them in harm's way, it's a really difficult one, you feel really conflicted, we know that we've got to keep the children safe but also I've got to keep my staff safe."

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he would be keeping in touch with those on the ground to make sure teachers got the help they needed.

He said: "We will be closely monitoring what is happening in schools and will ensure they get the support they need in the weeks and months ahead."

He also cautioned those parents, who do not really need the help, not to put unnecessary pressure on the system.

"If your work is not critical in the response to coronavirus then please keep your child at home," said Mr Williamson. "This will help to halt the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives."

In homes up and down the country, parents will today face the daunting prospect of taking over from the teachers.

Laura Bolton, from Hammersmith, has three children - who are aged eight, three and one - and is trying to make the best of it.

"I'm sure more guidance will come from the schools but I'm just trying to embrace it positively," she said. "I think we need to cut ourselves some slack and just do the best we can, I know there are going to be beautiful moments and really challenging moments and that's okay."

Her daughter Lola, eight, is ready for the new way of learning.

She added: "Well, I'm quite sad that my friends can't really be with me because of the coronavirus but it's nice seeing how my mum and dad will teach me, and I can teach my brother some things."

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