Some civil service roles included in key workers list for schools and nurseries

Cabinet Office and DfE reveal list of occupations where people will still be able to send their children to education settings

The Department for Education. Photo: PA

By Richard Johnstone

20 Mar 2020

The Cabinet Office and the Department for Education have set out the core civil service jobs that will entitle staff to keep sending their children to school in the current phase of the coronavirus crisis – while other pupils are required to stay at home.

With the end of regular classes for all pupils due to start from the end of today, guidance issued last night sets out exempt occupations whose children can continue to attend school so that their parents can carry on their key public-service duties.

Frontline health service professionals head the list, with the inclusion social workers and social care staff. However the list also stresses that “support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector” are also included, likely covering much of the Department of Health and Social Care workforce and that of Public Health England.


The Cabinet Office also listed administrative occupations that are essential for the delivery of the Covid-19 response – including Department for Work and Pensions staff who handle the payment of benefits – as well as those working for government agencies and arm’s length bodies.

In addition to police and their support staff, the list includes Ministry of Defence civilians and members of the armed forces who have roles that are “critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs” that are essential to the Covid-19 response.

Fire and rescue service staff, National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles are also included – as are Ministry of Justice and HM Courts and Tribunals Service staff considered “essential to the running of the justice system”.

The guidance relating to jobs in the transport and infrastructure sectors sets a list of functions within the remits of the Department for Transport, Network Rail and Highways England. It describes key staff as “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”.

Staff working for the Government Digital Service would be included in the list of utilities, communication and financial services specialist roles. While the sector is not limited to public servants, “information technology and data infrastructure” roles are named, as are “key staff” working in the civil nuclear, chemicals and telecommunications sectors.

In addition to thanking teachers and other education support staff for their efforts in keeping some schools open, the Cabinet Office and DfE guidance said it was better for key workers to keep their children at home if they could, even when they were entitled to continue sending them to school.

It also stressed that despite the sector-by-sector guidance, staff should confirm with their line managers that their specific role was necessary for the continuation of the essential public service that their department, agency, council or business delivered.

“The most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of COVID-19 is clear,” it says.

“If children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading.

“That is why the government has asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and asked schools to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.

“It is important to underline that schools, colleges and other educational establishments remain safe places for children. But the fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society.”

The guidance noted that not all schools would be open for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis, and urged parents to contact their local authority if their children’s school was closed.

It concluded: “We are grateful for the work of teachers and workers in educational settings for continuing to provide for the children of the other critical workers of our country. It is an essential part of our national effort to combat this disease.”

The full details can be read here.

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