Schools have pleaded with parents to be ‘completely honest’ about whether they are key workers or not.
Across England, a number of schools are struggling to cope with the demand for school places while also offering remote learning simultaneously.
It appears the problem is the government’s broad definition of a critical worker, which includes everyone from university staff to those who can claim to be essential to the provision of food and other key goods and services.
The Department for Education explained there is ‘clear guidance’ that children with at least one parent or carer who is a critical worker can go to school.
They said: “The published guidance on critical worker and vulnerable children is clear about who can still attend school and we expect schools to work with parents to ensure all these children are given access to a place if required.”
However, a primary headteacher in Greater Manchester explained that school staff spent Wednesday ‘interrogating’ parents after receiving 210 applications from key workers, reports The Guardian. At the start of the first lockdown, the school had 30 vulnerable and key worker pupils in attendance out of 500 in total.
The headteacher added: “You’d be hard-pressed to find any job that can’t be fitted into most of the categories.”
Some schools are now ignoring government advice, which explains that children qualify if one parent is a critical worker, and instead are asking that both parents prove they are doing essential jobs they cannot do from home.
The Greater Manchester head added that some parents are going as far as to make up fake companies to make their case. She said she understood the difficulty for parents, adding: “I’m a teacher and I don’t want to home-school my kids, but at the minute I have to put the virus first.”
At Our Lady of Lourdes primary school in Bury, the headteacher wrote to parents asking them to reconsider.
They said: “We have been inundated with requests from parents. If we were to accept all the requests as well as the vulnerable children we have asked to come into school, we would have more than 50% of the school population attending school. This goes against the national lockdown of ‘stay at home’.
“I would ask for your complete honesty when applying for a critical worker place. If you are working from home or have another adult in the household who is not a critical worker, I would expect your child to access remote learning from home.”
The Association of School and College Leaders union (ASCL) has urged the government to reconsider the eligibility rules to mean children should only be able to go to school if both parents are key workers.
The director of policy, Julie McCulloch explained that there was a 20% cap on children in school in the first lockdown but there is no similar cap in the nation’s third lockdown.
She explained: “We are certainly receiving some quite worried messages from members around the country, who are finding that if they look at the eligibility criteria for school places, in some cases they might have 50, 60 or even 70% of their pupils who fulfil the criteria.
“At the moment, heads are completely in the dark, not knowing whether they can or should be saying to parents – ‘I’m sorry, we are full.’
“They don’t know what ‘full’ means. If the whole point is to reduce community transmission, if we are ending up with half of children coming into school, it seems unlikely that will be achieved.”
The executive member for children and schools at Manchester City Council, Garry Bridges, explained that schools are experiencing extreme demand for places.
He said: “In Manchester, we have very high numbers of children in the vulnerable categories as well as high numbers of those who meet the government criteria of critical or key workers.
“Those vulnerable groups of children are some of the most vulnerable children in the country and schools are obviously keen to make sure they have a place offered.”
Mr Bridges added: “Instead of properly planning for a period of closure, the government plunged schools into closure overnight leaving many questions unanswered. It is now schools, staff, parents and children who are dealing with the consequences.”
First ever permanent pug cafe to open in Greater Manchester
If you’re a fan of pugs, you’re going to love this!
A brand new cafe full of adorable and playful pugs is set to open in Greater Manchester.
You could go for a coffee and cake while 10 cute pugs cuddle, play and come for treats from your hands at this brand new cafe concept opening on Chapel Street in Salford.
Already a huge hit in London, with visitors from near and far, Cuppapug will be opening its first café in the North West – and its second venue – with a soft launch on Friday March 1st.
Pug lovers can book in at the cafe for an hour of crazy or chilled pug time, suitable for all the family to enjoy.
Cuppapug is a cafe concept created by couple – and owners of seven pugs – Aaron Carty and Matthew Pieterse, who opened the doors to their first venue in London in 2022.
Fully opening to the public on March 21st, visitors to Cuppapug can expect the adorable, furry four-legged friends running around the cafe, playing in ball pits and eating carrots and treats from your hands.
The menu will feature a host of doggy-themed drinks and cakes as well as treats for the doggos such as puppuccinos.
In case you’re wondering where the pugs go at the end of the day, each one belongs to local owners who drop their loveable fur baby off at the cafe for a day of mischief and fun.
Also in the CuppaPug family are Gaston, Bruce, Bowser, Beau, Gizmo, Bebe, and Baloo – Aaron and Matt’s pugs who’ve been staying with them at The Kimpton Clocktower as they prep the site for opening.
Speaking to Proper Manchester about the new opening, Aaron said: “We chose Manchester because we discovered it is a city full of dog lovers who love pugs.
“We get so many people visiting our London cafe from the North, we’ve even people catching flights from Hawaii, so it seemed like the right place to open our next Cuppapug.”
On why he and Matt love pugs so much, Aaron said: “I think of pugs being a lot like myself and I also love an underdog – and pugs are an underdog of the dog world.
“People think they are unfit, unhealthy and have breathing issues but that’s not true. We actually train our pugs to enjoy carrots, walk a lot, and our pet pugs enjoy a steak night every week – even I don’t get that!”
The Salford Cuppapug will also be partnering with Manchester Pug Thing, who rescue and rehome pugs, with £1 from every ticket going towards the pug rescue charity.
Aaron added: “We’ve had such overwhelming support and positive messages about our Manchester opening, it’s been absolutely amazing.
“It’s already a nerve-wrecking experience deciding to open a second venue but we’re really happy to have chosen to do it in Manchester and we’re really happy Manchester has chosen us. We’ve had so many drivers going past and beeping us and people asking ‘is this the pug place?’
“We’re having a launch party on March 21st and are really excited to open.”
CuppaPug officially opens to the public on March 21st 6-10pm, following a soft launch this Friday (March 1st). You can find the cafe and pugs on Chapel Street, Salford – it’s bright pink, you can’t miss it!
Primary school in Greater Manchester evacuated after nearby ‘gas explosion’
A primary school in Greater Manchester has been evacuated after a ‘gas explosion’ at a nearby house.
The incident happened earlier today (February 28th) near to St Luke’s primary school in Bury.
Councillor Tamoor Tariq said everyone who lived nearby has also been taken to a place of safety after the blast, which happened in the Fishpool area.
At around 12pm, he posted on Facebook: “Heartbreaking to share there has been a gas explosion in the last few minutes right across from my house.
“I understand everyone has been taken into a place of safety and emergency services are doing all possible to deal with this awful situation.
“St Luke’s primary have also evacuated children, as they are just yards away. I remain out of the country due to a family member being critical, but I am keeping in touch with all relevant people/authorities.”
In a further comment, Mr Tamoor added: “An elderly neighbour has been taken into hospital, all others affected are in a safe and secure place of their choosing. Praying our neighbour will be ok and get the treatment she needs.”
A Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said ‘multiple crews’ had been dispatched to the scene.
They added: “Residents in the area are advised to keep windows and doors closed and avoid the scene while crews carry out their work.”
A woman in her 70s has been taken to hospital with ‘serious injuries’, Greater Manchester Police said.
Issuing a statement on social media, GMP said: “Emergency services are currently responding to a report of an explosion at a property on Nelson Street in the Fishpool area of Bury.
“At this stage, a woman in her 70s has been taken to hospital with serious injuries. A 200 metre cordon is in place around the property and neighbouring homes.
“Local residents and the community will be made aware if they need to take any further action.”
Iceland announces it’s discounting baby formula to cut price of £7.95
Iceland CEO Richard Walker says says ‘businesses need to step up and do more’
Iceland has launched reduced cost baby formula in a bid to do more to help families through the cost of living crisis.
Iceland CEO Richard Walker is determined to bring down the cost of baby formula, and says ‘businesses need to step up and do more’.
The businessman has made it his mission after hearing heartbreaking tales from parents who have been struggling to feed their families amid spiralling costs.
Mr Walker, a dad-of-two, told Metro: “We’ve heard terrible stories of customers watering down feeds, skipping feeds or ignoring sell by dates, all of which is really bad for the baby. That prompted us to take action.”
Iceland slashed prices earlier this year, revealing three of its Aptamil formula milk products would sell at £11.20 – a move which led other supermarkets including Asda and Tesco to reduce their own prices.
Now, Iceland has confirmed it is selling 800g of SMA’s Little Steps formula milk for £7.95 across its stores and online from Tuesday February 27th – £1.80 cheaper than its rivals.
Mr Walker insisted it’s not just a clever business move either, as he continued: “The price is a mind-blowing £7.95 which makes it the cheapest infant formula milk on the market. I think it will really really help our customers.
“We’re not making any profit out of this now. We’re passing on the savings which we’re managing to persuade the manufacturer to give straight on to our customers.”
The baby formula industry is currently under investigation after prices rose by an average of 25% in the past two years.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said it is looking into whether companies have been exploiting parents for profit.
Iceland’s launch of lower priced baby formula has also gained the support of Mumsnet.
The eight-million strong parenting group have announced they are joining forces with Formula For Change – Metro’s campaign to lower baby formula prices.
Mr Walker has also signed the petition and is calling on parents to sign it and help push it over the line.
Politicians may soon be forced to address the scandal as the Formula for Change petition is almost at the 100,000 signatures mark – the crucial threshold needed for a parliamentary debate on the issue.
Mr Walker also told the publication: “Formula for Change is absolutely fantastic. The Prime Minister has said he is ‘sad’ families are watering down formula to try and make it last longer, but again these are just words.”