As schools begin to close their doors in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, some children will be able to continue going to school on Monday 23 March.
This is everything you need to know about the plans in place to take care of vulnerable children, and children of key workers.
Schools open for children of key workers
Schools across the UK close their doors on Friday 20 March, until further notice, in an attempt to slow the spread of the Covid-19 strain of the coronavirus.
However, children of key workers and vulnerable children will still be able to attend school from Monday (23 March) onwards.
Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney explained in a statement on 19 March that the children who would be allowed back into schools and nurseries would “have continuing access to all-age learning and childcare”.
In an effort to support key workers, like NHS staff, police and supermarket workers who need to be able to go to work, a skeleton network of schools and nurseries will remain open.
Children of key workers will qualify for continued schooling even if only one parent is classified as a key worker.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Fighting coronavirus and protecting the vulnerable and our NHS are the Government’s top priorities right now.
“That’s why we are asking schools, nurseries and colleges to close - except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.”
Who are “vulnerable” children?
Vulnerable children are also included in this exception, and are classified as children who have a social worker, and those with Education, Health and Care Plans - a legal document that outlines the child’s special education needs, and the support they require.
It was explained in the notice that “children who do not fall into these groups should remain at home with appropriate care”.
What schools will remain open?
The government asked that schools, colleges, nurseries, childminders and other registered childcare settings remain open for vulnerable children and for kids of critical workers.
“We understand that some may be unable to do so, especially if they are experiencing severe staff shortages. We will work with local areas to use neighbouring schools, colleges and childcare providers to support vulnerable children and children of critical workers,” the government said.
This also applies to independent schools and boarding schools as well.
If you are a parent of a child that qualifies to continue going to school, but your local school or childcare provider has closed, the government states that they will work with the local educational authority, regional school commissioners and neighbouring providers to find an alternative setting.
You should contact your local authority, who will then redirect you to a local school in your area that your child, or children, can attend.
Coronavirus: the facts
What is coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.
What caused coronavirus?
The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.
How is it spread?
As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.
What are the symptoms?
The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.
What precautions can be taken?
Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.
As of Monday 16 March the government advised that everyone should be observing social distancing - avoiding unnecessary travel and working from home where possible. Anyone with a cough or cold symptoms now needs to self-isolate with their entire household for 14 days.
The government has also advised against going to the pub, out for dinner or partaking in any socialising with large groups. This has caused a number of closures across the country. Schools will close from Friday 20 March for the foreseeable future and exams have been cancelled.
The over 70s or anyone who is vulnerable or living with an underlying illness are being asked to be extra careful and stay at home to self-isolate.
For more information on government advice, please check their website here.
Should I avoid public places?
The advice now is to avoid public places and any non-essential travel. Travel abroad is also being advised against for the next 30 days at least, and many European countries have closed their borders.
What should I do if I feel unwell?
Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.
When to call NHS 111
NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.