Head teachers have warned against parents trying to lie over “key worker” status to get their children a place at school, with some fearing they could be “overwhelmed” with pupils on Monday.
One head teacher said a number of parents have told “white lies and exaggerations” about their job roles and warned pupils could be turned away at the school gate on Monday.
The head said one parent told her that he worked in financial services and qualified, despite being made redundant three months earlier.
At the end of the day on Friday, educational settings in England will close to all except the most vulnerable children & children of critical workers who would otherwise need to stay home.
— Department for Education (@educationgovuk) March 20, 2020
Parents have been told to send their children to school next week only if they are a key worker and only if absolutely necessary.
A number of head teachers said they fear being “overwhelmed” on Monday if parents ignore the rules.
Janine Burton, head teacher at Webheath Academy Primary School in Redditch, told the PA news agency: “We’re not an education provider at the moment, we are childcare services. And that’s what we’ve been told we are.”
She said any parents who do not qualify will be turned away on Monday morning: “We will lock the other doors so they actually can’t get into school.
“It’s not very nice, but some of our parents, because they’re both working because they’re worried about the situation for themselves and because they need childcare, have exaggerated or found wording within the list and said, ‘oh that’s me’.”
The Government published the list just after midnight on Friday – later than expected – outlining the occupations of parents whose children may continue to be cared for at school amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Doctors, nurses, police, journalists and teachers themselves are on the list as are workers involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, along with “administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the Covid-19 response” in local and national government.
Staff needed for “essential financial services provision”, such as bank workers, key telecommunications staff and postal services and delivery workers are also listed.
School closure is to help stop spread. Most children should stay away including the children of key workers if they can be cared for at home. School should be the last resort for those with no alternative according to DFE guidance. This is the right approach. @NAHTnews https://t.co/cImvbhBMEZ
— Paul Whiteman (@PaulWhiteman6) March 20, 2020
However, school leaders have been told to keep numbers of students in school below 20% capacity and have asked parents to only bring their children to school if absolutely necessary.
Bryony Baynes, head of Worcester’s Kempsey Primary School, said she had been forced to develop a ranking system in order to allocate places.
She said parents where both had “key worker” status were given priority.
She said: “There has been a lot of anger, and parents have been up in arms. It puts us in the position of having to play God. The guidance came out too late and it wasn’t clear enough.
“But parents haven’t fully grasped the significance of it. The safest place for their children is at home. The more children I have in school, the more staff I have to have, and that puts them at risk. We just don’t have the capacity.”
Many said the issues are being most strongly felt by primary schools, as students in high school are more likely to be able to look after themselves during the day.
Lindsey Cooke, head teacher at Hanley Castle High School in Worcester, said: “I think the difficulty is that so many of our staff fall into the categories that they have the listed underlying health conditions, or they live in households where there are people that have underlying health conditions and that leaves a relatively small pool of staff to keep manning the ship.
“I think the difference between us and primary schools is that our children are older so we don’t have the same issues.”