Friday marks the last day at school for most children across the UK until further notice, in response to the escalating coronavirus outbreak.
Schools in England, Scotland and Wales will close on Friday to everyone except vulnerable children, and those with a parent identified as a key worker.
Schools in Northern Ireland will shut from Monday 23 March.
A-level and GCSE exams, and primary school SATs – usually taken in May and June – have been cancelled.
Most local governments have indicated schools may not reopen properly until the end of the summer.
The government has published a list of key workers whose children will be cared for at school to enable their parents to continue with work considered to be essential during the pandemic.
The list has been separated into eight categories, including frontline health workers and social care staff, nursery and teaching staff and those involved in food production and delivery.
It also includes the police, those in key public services – such as the running of the justice system and public broadcast – transport workers and critical staff in financial services and utilities.
“If your work is critical to the Covid-19 response, or you work in one of the critical sectors listed below, and you cannot keep your child safe at home then your children will be prioritised for education provision,” the government said.
However it stressed that “every child who can be safely cared for at home should be” and asked workers to consult their employers to confirm whether “their specific role is necessary”.
Who are “key workers”?
The full list includes:
- Frontline health workers such as doctors and nurses
- Some teachers and social workers
- Workers in key public services including those essential to the justice system, religious staff, and public service journalists
- Local and national government workers deemed crucial to delivering essential public services
- Workers involved in food production processing, distribution, sale and delivery
- Public safety workers including police, armed forces personnel, firefighters, and prison staff
- Essential air, water, road and rail transport workers
- Utilities, communication and financial services staff, including postal workers, and waste disposal workers
Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with special educational needs. The Department of Education said it would help local authorities identify those “who most need support at this time”.
The government has encouraged local authorities to keep open both residential special schools and residential specialist colleges wherever possible.
Meanwhile, confusion continues over how grades will be awarded in the light of the decision to cancel this summer’s exam season.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has indicated guidance will be issued on Friday, adding the government would work with schools, colleges and England’s exams regulator, Ofqual, “to ensure children get the qualifications they need”.