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Closure of education settings

All schools, nurseries, private schools and sixth form colleges in England have closed until further notice, as part of the country's ongoing response to coronavirus.

From Monday 23 March, schools are expected to provide care for children of key workers and vulnerable children. Those that are eligible for this childcare are listed on the Department for Education's website.

If workers think they fall within the critical categories listed on the link 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 will be in contact with families to share the link to the eligibility criteria and explain how to contact them to request a place.

All schools have been sent guidance:

  • If a school is unable to offer a place to eligible pupils, when the COVID-19 key worker parents feel they have no other safe childcare option, the school must make it clear to parents the reasons why such a place cannot be offered at their own school.
  • In such circumstances schools and parents need to discuss the challenges being faced and work to find a solution on a case by case basis.
  • In a small number of cases the school may need to signpost parents to other provision locally that does have capacity. Schools in this position will take into account the need to maintain as much social distancing as possible to prevent the spread of the virus and avoiding unnecessary travel, whilst recognising such signposting may be necessary to maintain an offer because the 'home' school does not have safe staffing levels.

If you are experiencing difficulties in arranging child care, you should in the first instance get back in contact with your school directly to find a solution.

In rare circumstances, where there is a sudden unanticipated need to close the school and where a school has not been able to put the above processes in place parents are asked to make contact via the Live Well Team: admin@livewell.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk

Children who do not fall into these groups should remain at home with the appropriate care.

The DfE has confirmed that they will not go ahead with primary school assessments or secondary exams this summer and will not be publishing performance tables.

The DfE will work with the sector and Ofqual to ensure children get the qualifications they need. More details will be shared via schools when the DfE release this information.

Special schools will also be changing from an education provider to a childcare provider from Monday 23 March.

As all children in a special school have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), schools will be working with families to clarify the care needs of their children, the support that is wanted by their families and which families are also key workers.

Special schools are very conscious of the importance of stability and routines for their children and will work closely with families.

To support children eligible for free school meals the Education Secretary announced that schools will be able to purchase meals or vouchers for supermarkets or local shops. Individual schools will contact the parents of children who are eligible for free school meals to provide details of the alternative arrangements.

The Department for Education have published guidance, including new information and frequently asked questions, about the national free school meal voucher scheme.

COVID-19: free school meals guidance

Where schools have not made other arrangements and have chosen to use the free school meal supermarket vouchers of £15 per term-time week, they can be ordered for you by your child's school. Please check the arrangements your school has made directly with them.

The free school meal voucher does not include universal infant free school meals (UIFSM) where all government funded schools offer free school meals to pupils in reception, year one, and year two.

If your child was receiving UIFSM but you believe you may be eligible for free school meals, find out more on the school meals page:

School meals

The Council has a Community Response Group looking at access to food for vulnerable people across west Cheshire. If you know of any families who meet the criteria of being clinically extremely vulnerable please encourage them to register:

GOV.UK: get coronavirus support as a clinically extremely vulnerable person

Nurseries will be eligible for a business rates holiday for one year. That means non-local authority providers of childcare will pay no business rates in 2020-21, from 1 April.

Cheshire West and Chester Council will continue early entitlements funding for all childminders, schools and nurseries during any periods of nursery, preschool or childminder closures.

Free childcare offers to continue during coronavirus closures

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