Warwickshire County Council announces plans for closing schools due to Coronavirus outbreak

Warwickshire County Council has announced that while only eligible children will be able to attend school from next week, most schools and early years settings * in the county are expected to open on Monday as plans are finalised for the number of sites needed to meet critical need going forwards.

Government guidance is for all children to be kept away from schools and early years settings unless they meet one of the following criteria.

  • That one of their parents is defined as a key worker according to government guidance. Government guidance is also that parents who are defined as key workers should only send their children to school if they do not have a safe alternative. The list of those whose work is regarded as critical to the COVID-19 response can be found here
  • That the child is classed as being ‘vulnerable’, including those who are supported by social care, those with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans, on child protection plans, ‘looked after’ children, young carers, disabled children and those with an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP)

For the reduced number of children who will be attending schools, the transport network will continue to operate at its current capacity to ensure that all the children attending will be able to do so as usual. There will be staff ensuring that the schools remain safe and functional. Free meals will be provided to all eligible pupils whether they are in a school setting or not and information about how to access this will be available soon.

Every day, data will be collected in the morning by schools to have a very clear picture of how many children are in school and, if any child is not attending without adequate explanation from parents or carers, checks will be made to ensure they are safe.

As the situation evolves, the number of schools open will be scaled down depending on take up and the availability of teaching and essential staff and the transport network. The county council will be communicating which schools will remain open as the number of settings reduces.  As time goes on it is likely that many children who are eligible to attend school under the new guidelines will be attending a different location than their usual school.

Where fit, able and not self-isolating, school staff will be expected to be working in line with national guidance.  Schools have been developing their approach for distance learning and an online curriculum for children not eligible to attend school. They will be teaching online or preparing online materials so children continue to receive the best education possible. Staff who are supervising children on site will not be teaching in a traditional way: they will be overseeing the remote or distance learning approaches.

Cllr Colin Hayfield, portfolio holder for education and learning with Warwickshire County Council, said:

“We appreciate the disruption that this will cause but we do not have an alternative.  Everyone has a role to play in stopping the spread of the Coronavirus, and Government has stressed that schools and early years settings now have to play their essential part, having kept them open and functioning fully for as long as was practicably possible.

“The County Council and partners have been working to ensure that a viable plan was in place firstly to ensure that provision continues for our most vulnerable children and that children of key workers have provision of education so that their parents can continue with their jobs that are so critical at this moment in keeping our communities safe and functioning.

“At the moment this is a dynamic process, changing and adapting every day. We know that ultimately, we will almost certainly have to move to an area-based offer of schooling for these children.

“The hard preparation that has gone into developing an online curriculum in schools will now show its benefit as we move forwards and make provision for children who are not eligible to attend schools.  We will do everything that we can to ensure that they continue to learn and develop despite the unprecedented situation we are facing.

“While we are willingly accepting the supervision of children of key workers, the scientific advice is clear.  Social distancing is essential if we are to stem the onset of Coronavirus and we expect key workers, when they are able, to follow the national guidance and safely keep their children off school.”

 

  • To be referred to simply as ‘schools’ for the remainder of this article