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Updated Sunday 29 March 2020


As announced on Wednesday 18 March, schools in England have been closed from Monday 23 March, except for children of key workers and vulnerable children, until further notice.

If it is possible for a child to be at home, then they should be. Do not rely on childcare from those who should be socially distancing themselves, ie grandparents and family, friends or others with underlying health conditions.

If a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable (has a social worker; education, health and care plan [EHCP]; or, there are safeguarding concerns) or has a parent who is a key worker then education provision will be available to them.

Schools remain safe places for children but the fewer children who are in school the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable people in wider society.

For further information read government advice to parents and carers about the closure of schools and other educational settings following the outbreak of coronavirus.

On this page

Key workers

On the 19 March, the Department for Education (DfE) published its list of “key workers” whose children will be prioritised for schooling during general closures because of coronavirus. 

If a child has at least one parent whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response, or they work in one of the critical sectors listed below, and they cannot keep their child safely at home then their child(ren) will be prioritised for education provision. Key workers who can work from home should endeavour to also keep their children at home, where possible.

If workers think they fall within the critical categories below, 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 are able to ask for this confirmation if they are unsure as to whether a parent or carers role is critical or not.

Critical categories

Health and social care

This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.

Education and childcare

This includes childcare, support and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.

Key public services

This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.

Local and national government

This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response, or delivering essential public services, such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arms length bodies.

Food and other necessary goods

This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).

Public safety and national security

This includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic), fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.


This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.

Utilities, communication and financial services

This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors.

Holiday childcare scheme for key workers

The holiday childcare scheme will be operating from St Mary’s and St Michael’s School, E1 0BD from Monday 6 - Friday 17 April from 8am and 6pm.

The scheme is open for critical workers only. More information is available on www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/HCS.

What support will be available to parents to help them educate their children at home?

The Department for Education has provided detailed FAQs and will soon be providing more information about support for parents. DfE is also working with the BBC and others to provide resources for children to access while at home. 

We will be regularly adding to this page education resources for parents or carers who have children of school age at home.

Department for Education coronavirus helpline

The Department for Education has set up a helpline to offer guidance for anyone with education related questions - from early years up to universities, plus parents. You can call 0800 046 8687 from 8am to 6pm (Monday to Friday) and 10am to 4pm (Saturday and Sunday).

DfE hotline

Further reading

Check the Department for Education website for all of the latest information.