As schools across the UK close to most pupils, parents are being urged to keep their children at home unless it is deemed “absolutely necessary”.
Last week, the Government ordered mass school closures in response to the accelerated spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, it exempted parents working in eight key sectors deemed ‘critical’ to keeping the country’s public services and economy afloat.
Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has come under criticism for the ambiguity around the guidance on the workers it defines as ‘key’ to the COVID-19 response – with headteachers concerned that up to 1.7 million children could attend school as usual.
One of the main concerns is that companies will encourage employees to self-identify as ‘key workers’ so as to keep them in work and protect their own business’ productivity and bottom line.
Paul Whiteman, head of school leaders' union the NAHT said: ‘My appeal to companies and other employers: Please do not interpret the key workers lists liberally for your own ends.’
'Do not put profit over people. School places are there for the most vulnerable and to keep truly crucial operations running.'
He said families must keep children at home 'if at all possible'.
'Leave the few spaces available for those that truly have no alternative,' he added.
In response, Mr Williamson said schools were only open for the few, not the many.
"If your work is not critical in the response to Coronavirus then please keep your child at home. We will be closely monitoring what is happening in schools and will ensure they get the support they need in the weeks and months ahead."
Friday was the last school day for most children across the UK until further notice.