Wakefield academy chief says safety of staff is paramount as children of key workers return to school

The chief executive of a Wakefield academies trust has said that the health and safety of staff is the top priority.

Monday, 23rd March 2020, 11:26 am
Updated Monday, 23rd March 2020, 11:28 am

Schools across the UK have now closed to the majority of pupils as the government takes steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

But a small number of students, those with parents who qualify as key workers, have been allowed to remain in school.

Martyn Oliver, Outwood Academies Trust Chief Executive, said out of 25,000 pupils, 1,356 children will return on Monday.

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The chief executive of a Wakefield academies trust has said that the health and safety of staff is the top priority.

A spokesperson for the trust said: “There are a lot of uncertainties at the moment, our plan is to tackle Monday head-on as it will give us a better idea of numbers and then we can prepare and reevaluate our approach regards number of staff needed from there.

“Ultimately, we are aware we are a front-line service and we are keen to step up in this time of national crisis, to provide leadership and ensure all children who need care are provided it.”

Mr Oliver said keeping staff safe was paramount for the Trust, which operates 33 academies.

He said: “Now is a time for pulling together and we have told staff to embrace this opportunity to rise to this national challenge, but equally we have been clear that their health must come first.

"If they or an immediate family member have underlying health issues, or any issues that mean they should self-isolate, then that is what they must do."

“We have made it clear to staff that they can still make an incredible difference to the lives of our students whilst they are working from home during this period, and we will continue to be there for them, as they can continue to support those students who are also working from home.”

NASUWT Teacher's union head Chris Keates said that a lack of clear guidance from the government about 'key workers' whose children can go to school during the coronavirus has plunged schools into 'chaos'.

She said: “Schools have been plunged into chaos and confusion as they try to answer such basic questions as who are the key workers, how do we identify their children, what evidence is it reasonable to request from parents and what happens if other children turn up for school.

“Teachers are unclear whether they should be in work or out or what they will be expected to do if they are in work."

Ms Keates has urged the Government to make teachers a priority to be tested for COVID-19 and be provided with personal protective equipment.

“This would help to reassure many that keeping schools open for priority groups of pupils is not only necessary, but also the responsible thing to do," Ms Keates said.

The NASUWT confirmed they have written to the government ministers raising these and other issues.