Angry key workers in Falkirk hit out after not getting school places for children

Angry parents have hit out at Falkirk Council, saying they have not been given places in school hubs, despite being key or essential workers.

By Kirsty Paterson
Friday, 8th January 2021, 5:05 pm

One mum says she is working 12-hour shifts to support the NHS by making covid testing kits while her children have to go to work with their dad, who is a delivery driver.

Another family said it was offered a place during the March lockdown but was turned down this time.

The mum of two, who works for the NHS in another health board area, was able to work from home in March but has been told she must continue face to face sessions this time.

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She said: "My husband is classed as an essential worker. While he can work from home he is on call and may have to leave at any moment.

"I don't understand why we were eligible in March but not eligible now."

The family also believes that Falkirk Council is misinterpreting the guidance by insisting that both parents are key workers.

Falkirk Council's education department says it is simply following Scottish Government rules and insists nothing has changed since last time.

Nationally, demand for places is higher than it was in March, when many workplaces shut down completely and more people were either furloughed or able to work from home.

Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald has written to Falkirk Council's chief executive to ask about the demand for places and the support available for people who are turned down.

He is also reminding parents that if they cannot work because of childcare issues, they are entitled to ask to be put on furlough - with a ple to employers to be understanding and flexible.

Mr MacDonald said: "It is the case that schools are open for vulnerable children and those of key workers, however I am seeking clarification from Falkirk Council on the current situation with regard to demand for places.

"If you are unable to work due to lack of childcare then your employer can and should be using the Job Retention Scheme to furlough you on at least 80% wages.

"You should not be made to take unpaid leave or holidays as this may be a breach of the Equality Act."

Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson says the council is right to keep numbers as low as possible.

He said: "Due to the gravity of the current situation – and the need to suppress the spread of the virus as effectively as possible – it’s important to stress that the number of children taking up places in schools during this lockdown should be kept to the absolutely necessary minimum.

"It’s understandable that Falkirk Council will be looking to strictly enforce the eligibility criteria.

"The Scottish Government guidance makes it clear that where an alternative option is available – for example where childcare can be provided by one non-keyworker parent – this arrangement should be adopted."

But he understands the pressure on families.

A Falkirk Council spokesperson said: “In line with national guidance we will re-open schools for vulnerable children and for children if their parent/parents are critical/key workers.

“Places will be allocated to key workers who meet the criteria set by the Scottish Government.

“The criteria is exactly the same as during the first lockdown.”

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