Arrangements are being put in place for schools in Neath Port Talbot to support vulnerable pupils and the children of essential workers.

On Monday (March 23) the schools will re-open to provide care, recreation for children of essential workers and vulnerable pupils only.

Essential workers which will be used to admit pupils on Monday include:

• Health workers – all those employed within the NHS.

• Blue light / emergency service officers.

• Social care workers.

• Supermarket delivery drivers.

• Prison officers and other prison staff.

• Probation service staff

The council said it is expecting around 10 per cent of Neath Port Talbot’s pupil population to continue to attend school on a regular basis.

For the time being school transport will continue and this will be monitored on a daily basis.

Rotas will be drawn up so staff can attend according to the numbers attending each school, using questionnaire responses and local intelligence to ensure the provision is only for children of essential workers and vulnerable pupils.

Vulnerable pupils to be admitted to schools on Monday will be defined as those on the children in need and child protection registers.

Cleaning and catering staff will work as usual - apart from those who are self-isolating or those who have an underlying medical condition.

It is understood all childcare facilities, including Flying Start, should operate as usual subject to staffing arrangements.

When it comes to pupils eligible for free school meals (EFSM), the Council said it understands these pupils will be issued vouchers for a set amount per week to cover food and toiletries. Work is underway to put a system in place by Monday.

However, if this is not the case, these are the plans:

• All primary schools will be providing ‘Grab and Go’ bags for eligible pupils, with time slots being advised for when they should attend to pick up their bags. Once they have their bags they will need to return home. Primary EFSM pupils who use home to school transport (Welsh Medium / Faith Schools) should go to their nearest primary or secondary school to pick up their ‘Grab and Go’ bags. Note, they should provide identification.

• These arrangements will be similar for secondary schools. Secondary EFSM pupils who normally use home to school transport should go to their nearest primary or secondary school to pick up their ‘Grab and Go’ bags.

• Initially, we will prepare a few additional bags at each primary facility to allow for this. Demand will be monitored on a daily basis and preparation of meals recalibrated accordingly.

• The ‘Grab and Go’ bags will contain a sandwich made from wholemeal bread (ham / cheese / jam), fruit, biscuit and drink.

• Any unclaimed bags could be distributed to the vulnerable or elderly within the local area.

These arrangements will be monitored and adapted as we go along.

Aled Evans, Director of Education said: “We have all experienced times of significant anxiety and concern in recent days and weeks. This will not alleviate easily. However, I have been moved to tears by the messages of support and cooperation coming from our school community. This keeps me and my staff going, you need to understand that these messages have a hugely uplifting effect.”

“Similarly, we have nothing but intense admiration for each one of our headteacher, each member of staff who have kept things going in these difficult times and who have thought and acted for others. We applaud you.”