In Brief

Coronavirus: what is a key worker - and do you qualify?

Government has released list of ‘essential’ staff who are exempt from UK school closures

The UK government is closing all schools to pupils nationwide with one important exception - the children of so-called “key workers”.

The Department for Education last night released a list of workers whose children may continue to attend school so that their parents can continue with work considered to be essential in keeping the country functioning during the coronavirus pandemic.

The list includes front-line health and social care staff such as doctors, nurses, midwives and paramedics, as well as support and specialist staff in the sector.

“In addition, it includes those working in supply chains including producers and distributors of medicines and personal protective equipment,” says The Guardian.

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Nursery, teaching staff and social workers are also exempt from the closures, as are key public service workers such as “those required to run the justice system, religious staff, as well as those responsible for managing the deceased and journalists providing public service broadcasting”, the newspaper continues.

Local and national government workers deemed crucial to delivering essential public services are on the list, alongside workers involved in food production processing, distribution, sale and delivery.

Public safety workers including police, armed forces personnel, firefighters and prison staff are included too.

Essential air, water, road and rail transport workers are also exempt, as well as utilities, communication and financial services staff, including postal workers, and waste disposal workers, the BBC reports.

The government has said if workers think they fall within these “critical categories”, they should “confirm with their employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service”.

Schools supporting key workers’ children will be expected to remain open during the Easter holidays, according to the BBC.

But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, is predicting that schools will remain closed to all other pupils until September.

“The peak of the virus is expected to be at exams time after which most schools start to wind down, so it was very unlikely that they would reopen in the summer term,” he said.

Responding to widespread concerns about the cancellation of exams, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told BBC Breakfast that the aim was to issue children in England with grades in August under a “different process and a different system”, provided the virus doesn’t adversely “affect the examining boards and those who issue the grades”.

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