Critical workers status: A lesson plan is needed
However, schools have received conflicting messages – being closed to the majority of pupils, but not all.
With vulnerable children and children of key workers still able to attend, schools have been looking for clarity surrounding the definition of a key worker. Even some retailers, such as Pets at Home, have claimed that their staff are key workers, placing the education sector under immense pressure. The more children they have to look after, the harder it is to keep necessary social distancing measures in place.
Although further guidance has been released by the Department for Education, there are still a number of grey areas, leading to an increase in disputes. So, what can be done to settle the issue?
Raising a complaint
Normally, parents wishing to raise a complaint against a school must go through the school’s Complaints Procedure, which, ordinarily, is a three stage process.
However, these are not normal circumstances, and this method is likely to be too time and resource-intensive to be viable. We have seen reports that some parents are even resorting to sending letters from solicitors to schools demanding that they be treated as key workers.
There’s an argument that Schools and headteachers do have the final say on whether a child should attend school or remain at home with their parents. However, in such a complex time, this draconian approach may not go down well. As such, clearer guidance is needed from the Government and the Department for Education about what constitutes a critical worker.
Children are not known for their ability to stay away from others, and with a considerable number still in school, this makes social distancing a difficult task. Should a child attending school catch COVID-19, potentially due to inadequate social distancing, there is the possibility for parents to claim against the school. This being said, it is a situation that is – hopefully – unlikely to arise.
In addition, the new Coronavirus Act 2020 does include a provision for the Secretary of State to temporarily close an educational institution if, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, it is a necessity.
Although guidance has been provided to schools, it has not been clear, leaving teaching bodies with a huge challenge to overcome. In order to keep teachers, children and their families safe, more information will be needed from the Government. Without it, keeping disputes to a minimum might not be possible.
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