Which children can go to school? Definition of vulnerable kids and children of key workers - and when schools could reopen

Schools will be closed across Scotland until at least the end of January

On 4 January, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the Scottish Parliament to announce a national lockdown, including the continued closure of schools.

The earliest kids would return to the classroom is the end of January, however this would be reviewed every fortnight.

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Although most children will now engage in homeschooling, there was one caveat.

Vulnerable kids and those of key workers will continue to attend school  (Picture: Getty Images)
Vulnerable kids and those of key workers will continue to attend school (Picture: Getty Images)

Vulnerable children and those of key workers can continue to attend school - so who does this include? This is what we know.

Who counts as a vulnerable child?

According to the Scottish Government’s website, a vulnerable child could be:

- at risk of significant harm, with a child protection plan

- looked after - including fostering and kinship care

- ‘on the edge of care’, where families would benefit from additional support

- with additional support needs, where there are one or more factors which require significant or co-ordinated support

- affected by disability

- whose parent or carer experiences poor physical or mental health

- identified as experiencing adversities including domestic abuse and bereavement

- requiring support when they are involved in making transitions at critical stages in their lives.

A more extensive list of what counts as a vulnerable child can be found here.

At the discretion of local authorities, children who come from a home experiencing difficulties with restrictions, social isolation or low income which requires additional support or where the child would be restricted from learning, can also attend school.

Must my child go to school or nursery if they are classed as vulnerable?

For children identified as vulnerable, attendance should be identified by the children’s support network and local authority, and discussed with parents.

Local authorities are responsible for maintaining communication with the pupil and identifying when they do not attend school as required.

For children who do not have access to online tools, the attendance at school will be discussed by the school and parents and if alternative learning styles or arrangements can be met then this will be considered.

Who is classed as a key worker?

Children of key workers have also been identified as eligible for school-based learning.

Key workers include three categories:

- Category 1 - Health and Care workers directly supporting COVID response, and associated staff; Energy suppliers and childcare and teaching staff providing support for other category 1 staff.

- 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.

Those providing Critical National Infrastructure, all courts and tribunals staff and judiciary, and all legal professionals and jurors involved in court business.

- Category 3 – All workers without whom there could be a significant impact on Scotland but without whom the ability to perform essential tasks to keep the country running would not be severely compromised

A more extensive list can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Do both parents need to be a key worker for their children to attend school?

The Scottish Government has asked that, in order to keep childcare to a minimum, local authority provision is only granted to children where both parents are considered key workers.

If, for some reason, your partner is a key worker but you cannot care for your children at home then you should raise this with your child’s school or childcare setting and some provision may be offered - this is at the authority’s discretion.

It should be noted that children attending school will not necessarily receive child-specific tailored schooling - a skeleton school and nursery service will be provided as a means of offering additional support and supervision.

What are the rules around childcare?

If your child (under the age of 14) does not qualify for classroom learning and therefore must remain at home, childcare is still legally allowed and neither you, nor the childcare provider can be penalised for engaging in informal childcare if it is deemed necessary.

Necessary childcare applies to key workers, people who cannot work without leaving the home in tier 4 and anyone working from home who cannot do so without alternative childcare.

Registered childminders can continue to function as normal - with no restriction on the need to only provide childcare to vulnerable kids or those of key workers.

Only children should enter the home of the childcare provider - that means parents cannot go into the home of those who are supervising their child.