Schools forced to ring employers to check parents are key workers

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Schools forced to ring employers to check parents are key workers

Parents have been accused of abusing the key worker system and lying about their jobs in a bid to send their children to school. Schools have been

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Parents have been accused of abusing the key worker system and lying about their jobs in a bid to send their children to school. 

Schools have been forced to check with employers that parents are key workers amid a surge in classroom numbers compared to the previous lockdown.   

Current guidance allows any child whose parent is a key worker to attend school, even if their parent works from home.

But figures show attendance has rocketed, with up to 2,000 schools in England having more than 40 per cent of pupils attending since the start of lockdown – suggesting many are ‘lying’ about their jobs. 

It has lead to a furious backlash from genuine key workers, who have been denied school places for their children and had to quit their jobs as a result. 

One mother branded the situation a ‘joke’ and said she was unable to send her own children to school because of the sheer number of pupils in class, adding, ‘key worker kids my a***’. 

A teacher explains social distancing measures to a group of year 7 students in a classroom at City of London Academy Highgate Hill (pictured before the lockdown)

A teacher explains social distancing measures to a group of year 7 students in a classroom at City of London Academy Highgate Hill (pictured before the lockdown) 

Hundreds of teachers in London ‘book Covid vaccine through NHS booking link sent on Whatsapp’ 

Hundreds of teachers in London have been able to book coronavirus vaccinations after being forwarded links intended for NHS workers, it was claimed today.

A booking link and password reserved for staff at Barts Health NHS Trust were circulated among school staff groups via WhatsApp, according to the BBC.

Several teachers were able to bypass the vaccines priority list – which says over-70s and frontline healthcare staff should be first – and have already received their jabs.

The exploit was distributed to local school staff in the Labour-run boroughs of Hackney and Camden, as well as in Barnet. Teachers said the messages had been sent via school management and were spreading in private WhatsApp groups with dozens of members.

Labour has repeatedly called for classroom staff to be prioritised for Covid vaccines, arguing it could get children back in education sooner.

The Barts trust said it was investigating the reports and promised to make its booking system more secure. It said anyone skipping the queue would be turned away from their appointment, but the BBC reports ‘some’ teachers have already been jabbed.

The trust has admitted it had sent booking links to non-frontline hospital staff to use up leftover doses of its vaccines. It is thought that the exploit was leaked this way.

Speaking in an anonymous capacity to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, one teacher revealed he had been able to book an appointment through the Barts Health system.

‘I was sceptical that it would accept the appointment right up to the point it was confirmed,’ he said.

‘I thought during the booking process, if it wasn’t something I was entitled to, I thought there would be something that would close it down or would refuse the appointment.

‘But I went through the booking system and entered my details, my school details, my job details and then received a confirmation of the appointment itself.’

The chair of the Royal College of GPs, Professor Martin Marshall, warned there was ‘certainly a risk’ of queue-jumping during complicated vaccine roll-outs.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for all school staff to be vaccinated in England over the February half-term, when the four most vulnerable groups are set to have received their first doses.

The party says there is ‘growing evidence’ the jabs slam the brakes on transmission of the virus, reducing disruption to lessons if teachers test positive and possibly getting children back in the classroom sooner.

But a hardline union dismissed the plan to vaccinate the country’s entire classroom staff during a seven-day window this month.

Other unions have blasted Mr Johnson’s plans to open schools by March 8 as ‘too early’ and claimed they would ultimately lead to a fourth national squeeze.

When the national lockdown was announced at the start of the year, parents were asked to fill in forms and provide information to prove they were keyworkers. 

Parents have been urged by the Department for Education to ‘honour the spirit’ of the lockdown and to keep children at home where possible.

But schools have revealed they have had to send out letters and emails warning parents they will check their employee status, amid rising classroom numbers.  

Department for Education data released this week showed that some 15 per cent of all pupils on roll in state-funded schools were in attendance on 28 January – up from 14 per cent in the previous two weeks. 

And a survey by the NAHT school leaders’ union suggested that up to 2,000 schools in England have had more than 40 per cent of pupils in class since the start of lockdown. 

One furious mother told Teesside Live she was unable to send her own children to school because other parents were lying about being key workers.

The 32-year-old said: ‘Here’s me an actual key worker working from home but I daren’t send my kids into their school because it’s full of kids whose parents aren’t key workers. 

‘How selfish at a time when we all should be pulling together and doing our bit.

‘It’s putting teachers’ lives at risk, and risking their own children. 

‘They should be ashamed.’

She added: ‘God knows what these parents are telling teachers about why their kids have to come into school but they’re not actually eligible if it was properly policed – key worker kids my a***.’ 

Those who qualify as key workers include workers essential to running the justice system, religious staff, food production workers, charity workers, and some employed by local government, utilities, communications and financial workers. 

Figures from Teacher Tapp last month show that 35 percent of primary schools had at least 20 percent of pupils in school, and 15 percent of primaries had at least 30 percent. 

A spokesman for Teacher Tapp suggested attendance figures have gone up since then. 

London-based group Teacher Station told MailOnline: ‘Many more children are in school this time round and parents have definitely been taking places when only one parent is a keyworker. 

‘This was the criteria the government set, BUT they also said that children should stay at home if possible. 

‘Therefore many children could probably be at home and aren’t.’ 

In a post online, The Teacher Station wrote: ‘When school closures were announced in March last year, there were very very few numbers of children in school, which is how it should be. 

‘There were maybe 8 or so children in a bubble and only a few bubbles altogether. 

‘This time round however, something has changed dramatically. 

‘I have heard reports that there are far greater numbers of key worker children attending schools. 

‘Some are running at near full class sizes which is shocking. 

‘Not only is this unsafe for everyone, it is putting excess pressure on staff who are trying to teach in person and online.’ 

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told MailOnline that schools had ‘better things to do with their time’ than verify parents’ claims. 

A survey by the NAHT school leaders' union suggested that up to 2,000 schools in England have had more than 40 per cent of pupils in class since the start of lockdown (file photo)

A survey by the NAHT school leaders’ union suggested that up to 2,000 schools in England have had more than 40 per cent of pupils in class since the start of lockdown (file photo)

He added: ‘Schools clearly have much better things to do with their time than having to phone employers to check that places are really needed but they have been placed in the very difficult position of having much higher demand than in the first lockdown. 

‘We have made repeated requests to the government for firm guidance on how many children should be in school at any one time, but this has not been forthcoming.

‘Many schools are therefore having to perform a delicate daily juggling act in order to balance in-school teaching for quite large numbers of pupils with remote education for everyone else.

‘It is very difficult to square this with the government’s message to the public to stay home, protect the NHS, and save lives.’

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary at the NEU told MailOnlie: ‘There is a significantly greater demand for on-site learning in this lockdown compared to the first, and the list of who is eligible to attend is longer than before. 

‘Schools and colleges will meet the needs of all key worker and vulnerable children, as well as those learning remotely, but Government advice is that everyone should stay at home where possible and that parents should keep their children at home wherever possible.’    

Psychologist mother-of-two says she was forced to quit work to home-school her children after her boss refused to furlough her – as employers are accused of ‘sex discrimination’ against working mums

A psychologist has revealed how she was forced to quit her job to home school her children because her employer refused to furlough her. 

Analise La-Band, a chartered occupational psychologist and mother-of-two, had to quit her job last summer in order to teach her children at home as schools closed during lockdown. 

Her story comes as it emerged more than 2,000 mothers have had their requests to be furloughed refused amid the lockdown this year. 

Employers are now being warned they face an imminent ‘mental health crisis’ and could be guilty of sex discrimination if they refuse to furlough parents. 

Analise La-Band, a chartered occupational psychologist and mother-of-two, had to quit her job last summer in order to teach her children at home as schools closed during lockdown

Joeli Brearley, who set up the organisation 'Pregnant Then Screwed', which fights for parents' rights.

Analise La-Band (left) a chartered occupational psychologist and mother-of-two, had to quit her job last summer in order to teach her children at home as schools closed during lockdown. Right, Joeli Brearley, who set up the organisation ‘Pregnant Then Screwed’, which fights for parents’ rights

Seven in 10 requests for furlough turned down for working mothers 

According to a study by the Trade Union Congress union, nearly three-quarters of working mothers who have applied for furlough following the latest school closures have had their requests turned down. 

Of those 3,100 who requested furlough, around 2,200 (71%) had their request turned down. 

It also found that some 78 per cent hadn’t been offered furlough by their employers. 

And 2 in 5 (40%) of all mothers who replied were unaware that the furlough scheme was available to parents affected by school or nursery closures.

Nearly all (90%) of those who replied said that their anxiety and stress levels had increased during this latest lockdown.

And almost half (48%) were worried about being treated negatively by their employers because of their childcare responsibilities.

Around half (44%) of mums told the TUC they were worried about the impact having to take time off work would have on their household finances.

A quarter (25%) of mums were using annual leave to manage their childcare – but nearly 1 in 5 (18%) had been forced to reduce their working hours and around 1 in 14 (7%) were taking unpaid leave from work and receiving no income.

Source: TUC 

Ms La-Band told Radio 4’s Today programme that she was forced to resign due to the pressures of home schooling. 

The mother-of-two said: ‘Unfortunately I was forced to resign last summer as a result of the difficulty of trying to balance work and home school. 

‘My request for furlough was rejected and I didn’t see any other option so I’ve not been working since. 

‘I’m obviously very concerned with how I can maintain my career and get into the workforce again at some point, having had to make a very difficult decision to withdraw from it when i really wouldn’t have had i had any other choice at the time.’ 

The job retention scheme currently allows bosses to furlough parents who can’t work due to a lack of childcare.

But the Trade Union Congress revealed that more than 2,000 working mothers, or 70 per cent, have had furlough requests turned down following the recent school closures. 

Joeli Brearley, who set up the organisation ‘Pregnant Then Screwed’, which fights for parents’ rights. 

She told the BBC that bosses who are rejecting furlough requests could be guilty of ‘indirect sex discrimination’ if they refuse to furlough working mothers. 

She also warned of a mental health crisis as burnt out parents are being forced to work 17-hour days, incorporating six hours of tuition into their working day. 

She said couples are taking it in turns to do home schooling, beginning work at 5am then rotating child care and working late into the night. 

She told MailOnline: ‘Women are now just walking out of their jobs because they just can’t keep doing it, and their mental health is so bad. They’re walking away.

‘Our analysis from ONS data shows that women aged between 25 and 34 have the highest per cent of redundancies and between August and October last year, women were 60 per cent more likely to be unemployed than men. 

‘It’s so concerning having mothers out of the workforce because it’s so dificult to get them back in. 

‘We should be deeply concerned about it, because it is about child poverty at the end of the day it – it affects whole families.’

Rishi Sunak's job retention scheme currently allows bosses to furlough parents who can't work due to a lack of childcare

Rishi Sunak’s job retention scheme currently allows bosses to furlough parents who can’t work due to a lack of childcare

She told Radio 4: ‘Many are not getting any break whatsoever…you’ve got six hours of unpaid work you now need to cram in to you job.

‘The average day has increase from 9 hours to 11 hours under lockdown – that’s already 17 hours of work you have to do before you consider cooking or cleaning or shopping or sleeping, or doing anything for yourself whatsoever. 

‘We’re hearing from frantic mothers who are completely burnt out and their mental health is rapidly deteriorating.

‘They can request to be furloughed and we would hope that their employer would consider that – but 70 per cent of mothers who’ve requested to be furloughed have had that request rejected. 

‘That could be indirect sex discrimination, because the caring responsibilities usually fall to women. 

‘And so if [employers] say you can’t be furloughed, that could be perceived as sex discrimination. 

‘We would really ask them to seriously consider that and if they don’t, they’re they’re going to have a mental health crisis on their hands. 

‘Over the summer between a third and 40 per cent of employers made redundancies so many are surviving on skeletal staff and desperately trying to rebuild their business.

‘Of course they need their employees, and they need them on full productivity, but sadly we’re seeing mothers being pushed out of their jobs because they’re unable to work on full productivity.’

According to a study by the Trade Union Congress union, nearly three-quarters of working mothers who have applied for furlough following the latest school closures have had their requests turned down (file photo)

According to a study by the Trade Union Congress union, nearly three-quarters of working mothers who have applied for furlough following the latest school closures have had their requests turned down (file photo)

Founder of the blog Mother Pukka, Anna Whitehouse added: ‘What working parents have been tasked with in lockdown is not humanly possible. 

‘You’re looking at an average eight hour working day, six hour school day, 12 hours of parenting wrapped around that – that’s 26 hours in a 24 hour day. And I’m hearing daily from women who are stepping back, standing down and logging off because they’re burning out.

‘Some are quitting out of choice, many not. Because who looks after kids home-schooling? Who looks after pandemic patients when out of hospital? Who takes a Tesco shop to elderly neighbours? Who runs community What’s App groups making sure everyone has everything they need?’  

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