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Coronavirus Kent: Stour Academy School trust insists both parents must be key workers to send children to class

The head of eight Kent primaries is defying government guidance by insisting BOTH parents must be key workers to send their children to school during the coronavirus crisis.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier this week that schools would shut from Monday to all pupils except vulnerable children and those with "at least one parent or carer identified as a critical worker by the government".

Stour Academy Trust chief executive Simon O'Keefe says it has to insist both parents are key workers
Stour Academy Trust chief executive Simon O'Keefe says it has to insist both parents are key workers

But the Stour Academy Trust, which runs schools in Canterbury, Ashford, Sheerness, Sittingbourne and Minster, has told parents both must be key workers to qualify.

Its chief executive, Simon O'Keefe, says its large cohort of vulnerable children combined with a high level of staff self-isolating has left it no choice.

In a letter to parents, he said: "During our strategic planning meetings we have been forced to make the decision that both parents will need to be key workers to be eligible for school attendance.

"We are aware that this contradicts the government guidance but this measure is necessary to avoid full school closure.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says just one parent has to be a key worker. Picture: Matt Dunham/PA Wire
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says just one parent has to be a key worker. Picture: Matt Dunham/PA Wire

"We calculated that due to the number of staff self-isolating and staff who are vulnerable we will be running on a skeleton staff, so we must limit numbers in order to remain safe."

The government yesterday released a list of those who qualify as key workers, with NHS staff, delivery drivers, carers and police officers among those qualifying.

It means they can still send their children to school on Monday.

Vulnerable children - often those with a social worker or under a care package - can also attend class, which Mr O'Keefe says will put added pressure on the capacity at his schools.

Finberry Primary School in Ashford
Finberry Primary School in Ashford

The Stour Academy Trust runs Adisham Primary, Water Meadows and Sturry Primary in Canterbury; Chilmington Green Primary and Finberry Primary in Ashford; Lansdowne Primary in Sittingbourne; Richmond Academy in Sheerness; and Minster's Thistle Hill Academy.

Mr O'Keefe said: "Our schools serve areas of high social disadvantage and therefore have large proportions of children and therefore have large proportions of children who are vulnerable, including children who are supported by social care, and those with safeguarding and welfare needs.

"We also have a higher than average proportion of children with EHCP plans across the Trust.

Lansdowne Primary School in Sittingbourne Picture: Bob Kitchin
Lansdowne Primary School in Sittingbourne Picture: Bob Kitchin

"We must make provision for all three groups - key workers, vulnerable children and those with an Education Health Care Plan.

"Our initial projected numbers for children who may access school exceeds national guidance for gatherings, and social distancing and staffing with such numbers would not have been achievable.

"We have had no choice but to put these restrictions in place to keep children and staff safe.

"Again, I must reinforce that this is a difficult time for everyone and although we fully understand your frustration we must ask you to be understanding and support our staff at this time."

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