Schools limit key worker places to priority groups as demand outstrips capacity
- Credit: PA
Families where both parents are critical workers and NHS workers are among those who will be given priority at schools where demand for places outstrips capacity.
Schools across Norfolk are facing increased pressure for places during the current lockdown, with many more families requesting critical worker places.
Norfolk County Council said it was working with education leaders and other local authorities in the region to develop prioritisation criteria.
At some schools this will mean both parents are expected to be critical workers, with priority given to those whose parents work in emergency life-saving services.
John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We completely understand how difficult it is for families who are juggling work, childcare and home learning but we would encourage people to keep their children at home if they possibly can.
“Schools are facing huge pressure for places and have limited staff to work in school, due to illness and self-isolation. The restrictions on how classes can be set up are also much stricter with this lockdown.
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“Although the national criteria states that only one parent needs to be a keyworker to be eligible for a place, in many schools that would mean nearly every child could still attend and schools simply cannot manage that at this time.”
The pressure on places facing schools this lockdown are partly the result of fewer staff, the bubble system being stricter and education unions advocating that staff should work with smaller numbers of children to minimise the risk to their health.
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Which parents receive places for their children will vary from school to school, as it will be based on demand and the number of children who are vulnerable who have already been provided with a place.
Some schools have been told they will need to prioritise the following groups:
- Both parents need to be critical workers.
- NHS workers involved in COVID-19 health response, including vaccinations.
- Police and emergency services; social care staff, and education staff providing for vulnerable groups and critical worker children.
Mike Smith-Clare, Labour lead for children and young people on Norfolk County Council, said the council should have been better prepared for this “inevitable demand” rather than “dodging and ducking” responsibility hoping it will all go away.
“How truly ridiculous that absolutely nothing has been learned from the previous lockdown,” he said.