Support for children of keyworkers
The definitions of key workers agreed with local authorities previously during the pandemic will continue to apply. The need for local flexibility to suit local circumstances is acknowledged. The definition of key workers sets out that:
- there should be a particular focus on key workers in posts which ensure that essential services can be delivered and cover tasks within the local community which support the vulnerable and aid community resilience. This may be slightly different in each community to allow the country to address local priorities. Whilst decisions will be taken at the local level, we would expect this to include consideration of:
- Category 1 – Health and Care workers directly supporting COVID-19 response, and associated staff; Health and Care workers supporting life threatening emergency work, as well as critical primary and community care provision; energy suppliers (small numbers identified as top priority already); staff providing childcare/learning for other category 1 staff. This will now include staff who, in the judgement of the local authority and schools, are required to attend in person to give effect to these revised school reopening arrangements.
- Category 2 – All other Health and Care workers, and wider public sector workers providing emergency/critical welfare services (for example: fire, police, prisons, social workers), as well as those supporting our Critical National Infrastructure, without whom serious damage to the welfare of the people of Scotland could be caused.
- Category 3 – All workers (private, public or third sector) without whom there could be a significant impact on Scotland (but where the response to COVID-19, or the ability to perform essential tasks to keep the country running, would not be severely compromised).
These categories are relevant only to consideration of the allocation of exceptional places for children and young people for in-person learning. They are not intended to inform decisions about which staff should be asked to attend work in person (employers should refer to Coronavirus: Guidance on working from home for further information on this). As noted earlier in this guidance, only school staff who, in the judgement of the local authority and schools, are required to attend in person to give effect to these revised school reopening arrangements should do so.
These categories are intended to support prioritisation of the allocation of places which are limited. For example, Category 1 and 2 workers would take precedence over Category 3 workers if schools do not have sufficient capacity to safely accommodate all requests. Not everyone who is eligible to apply will therefore be guaranteed a place.
For the avoidance of doubt, during these exceptional arrangements we would expect that all school staff and staff providing daycare of children’s services, including early learning and childcare, who are required to attend their work in person, or who cannot otherwise provide essential support for remote learning while working from home, would qualify as category 1 or 2 key workers. Wider groups of healthcare and other workers who have been brought in to support vaccination rollout and Test and Protect would also be expected to qualify under category 1.
While there are differences between the current situation and the previous strict lockdown (from March 2020), the gravity of the situation and the overarching aims of the exceptional school closures are judged to be sufficiently similar to support a similar approach as previously to the application of the definition of key workers and the provision of in-person schooling. The following key principles should be applied by local authorities and schools, and communicated clearly to school communities and local employers:
- there should be clarity on the way in which key workers or their employers can apply for places in schools
- the number of children taking up these places in schools during the strict lockdown period should be kept to the absolute minimum necessary
- only key workers who are physically attending their workplace or who cannot fulfil their critical functions when they are working remotely from home while supporting their children’s remote learning may qualify for places
- where alternative options are available – e.g. where childcare/remote learning can be provided or supported by one non-key-worker parent or carer who is able to work from home – these should be used instead of children attending school in person. Consideration should be given to ensuring application of this approach does not limit the ability of health and care staff (in category 1) to support the COVID-19 response during this period of acute pressure.
- if it is possible for children to be at home during this exceptional period, until schools reopen to them, then they should be. Whole workforces or entire groups of staff should not be designated as key workers. Doing so would undermine the collective effort we must all make to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives during this period of strict lockdown.