Parents and carers are being urged to do all they can to help their children continue to learn as the city's schools prepare to close to most pupils for an indefinite period from today (Friday 20 March, 2020).

The Department of Education announced earlier this week that schools and nurseries in England would be required to close to the majority of pupils as part of measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus. 

However, most city schools will remain open to the children of 'critical workers', such as NHS staff, police and delivery drivers, and for vulnerable children and those with the most complex special educational needs, to ensure that essential services can continue to function. 

A list of ‘critical workers’ whose children may need to continue to attend school was published by the Government last night and schools are in the process of identifying which children this applies to.

Councillor Dr Michael Hardacre, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: "While the measures announced by the Government this week are clearly necessary, it is going to put a great deal of additional pressure on families.

"We estimate that around 10% of children in Wolverhampton will continue to attend school in the coming weeks, and we will support local schools to continue to deliver this provision.

“It’s important to stress that children should only attend school if they absolutely need to – that is, if their parents are critical workers who need to be involved in the national effort around coronavirus, or if the children themselves are going to be safer in, rather than out of, school.

“For the families of the 90% or so of children who will not be attending school for the foreseeable future, we appreciate the closures will present significant issues, particularly for working parents and around matters such as childcare. 

"The advice is to not ask grandparents who are aged 70 or over to help out with childcare, because of their particular vulnerability to the virus, and so many parents will have little choice but to take time off work or work more flexible or reduced hours in order to look after their children at home. 

“I would urge anyone in this situation to speak to their employer as a matter of urgency to discuss what options or support may be available to enable them to do this. 

"Parents will be keen to do all they can to ensure their children can continue to learn while their school is closed, and I know that teachers at our city's schools have been incredibly busy developing homework packs and providing families with links to online resources which can help parents to home educate.” 

As well as materials provided by individual schools, there's a wide range of resources available online, and many e-learning platforms are offering their resources free of charge while schools are closed. The BBC is also developing resources to keep children stimulated over the coming weeks.

It's also important that parents do all they can to keep their children active while home learning. Like everyone else, they are subject the social distancing measures which have been announced by the Government, meaning many activities will have to be home based. However, they can still get fresh air and exercise at places like the local park, as long as they take extra care.

The Government has said that low income families whose children are eligible for free school meals will be offered vouchers or meals at home, even if they are no longer attending school due to coronavirus.

The Government has advised that it will not be going ahead with primary school assessments or secondary examinations this summer, or publishing performance tables. It is also working with schools and the regulator Ofqual to ensure children get the qualifications they need.

Councillor Hardacre added: "These are extraordinary times and they require an extraordinary response – and I would like to place on record my thanks, and that of the council, to our city’s children, families, school leaders, teachers and everyone working in the education sector for their incredible efforts so far, and in the coming days and weeks."

There’s lots of advice on how people can protect themselves online at NHS - Coronavirus (COVID-19). For further information and advice, please also visit Coronavirus advice and information.