Emergency service workers and NHS staff affected by the closure of schools will be able given access to childcare, the Education Secretary has pledged.
In a statement about the impact of coronavirus on the Scottish education system, in which he confirmed exams have been cancelled, John Swinney announced measures to help “key workers” carry on with their jobs.
Local authorities are developing plans to look after children of workers who are fundamental to efforts dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak, such as doctors, nurses, and emergency service staff.
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Deputy First Minister @JohnSwinney has updated Parliament on the impact of Covid-19 on schools and nurseries.
— ScotGov Education (@ScotGovEdu) March 19, 2020
Mr Swinney suggested some councils may keep school buildings open and use community facilities to help with caring for children of key workers, those who may be vulnerable or rely on free school meals.
“We must support local authorities to put in place arrangements that ensure the children of key workers who do not have another parent or carer who can look after them at home during the day have continuing access to all-age learning and childcare that allows their parent to participate in the national response to Covid-19,” Mr Swinney said.
“This may mean that some local authorities opt to keep open certain settings with reduced staffing but operating in a very different way.
“They may create local hubs and use community facilities in different ways.”
Mr Swinney announced private and third-sector childcare providers will be allowed to remain open on the condition they “support solely the children of critical workers and those families most in need of support”.
Local authorities will need to take into account issues of child protection, welfare, poverty, children with complex additional support needs and the need to provide access to food to young people, he said.
The Education Secretary added: “We need to continue to support vulnerable children, we will not cut adrift vulnerable young people who often rely on school life for hot meals or for a safe, nurturing and supportive environment.”
Mr Swinney also said measures outlined on Wednesday for a £70 million food fund will be used to help feed recipients of free school meals.