A KEY WORKER says she has been "left without childcare at the drop of a hat", as students begin their phased return to school this week.

Lara Stopps, from Tisbury, said she was given around 48 hours to find provision for her 13-year-old twins who have been attending lessons at Shaftesbury School during the Covid-19 lockdown.

She claims that staff suggested she leave her children with grandparents or a neighbour, despite current Covid-19 restrictions, or she can leave them unsupervised at home.

As a result of Covid-19 tests and all pupils returning this week, Lara, an employee in the motoring industry, and her partner in the emergency services, were told their children could not be onsite until their year group cohort returned tomorrow for testing, March 10.

Finding this out on March 3, Lara said: "We were told about all students returning safely, so I assumed that wouldn’t affect our children who have been going into school throughout. One of my children then said to me 'mum do you realise we’re not meant to be in next week?', but I just thought they couldn’t do that to us."

Lara, who works during the week from 6.30am until 6.30pm, claims that when she rang the school to challenge this, she was told she needed to find alternative carers for Monday and Tuesday or leave the twins at home.

"I have no childcare at the drop of a hat, as it was such late notice I was getting very upset with them, I just kept asking what should I do - we’re at work," Lara said.

"I just got told to leave them at home, and then, haven’t you got grandparents that can help. They are all over the age of 70 and can't look after the twins, and I don't want it on my conscience if they fall ill.

"I couldn’t leave them alone all day but I have been told that I should leave them at home, and then we were asked if we've got a neighbour."

"So, we either break Covid-19 rules or I need to leave them at home," Lara added.

"I am very angry and upset that despite working hard through this crisis our children are no longer a priority."

In response to comments made to the Journal, Donna London-Hill, headteacher at Shaftesbury School, said provision for key worker children could not continue in the same way when schools reopened, due to the number of tests required and staff required to provide these tests.

She said: "Like all secondary schools, Shaftesbury School is required to carry out Covid testing before the students' full return to school. This is scheduled to be carried out via a staggered start with students invited in for testing over three days, starting on Monday, March 8. Students are offered three Lateral Flow Device tests over two weeks.

"Due to the number of tests required and staff needed to administer these tests, this meant we were unable to continue supporting our key worker provision in the same format as we have been doing since the start of lockdown. However, where parents have raised a request for this provision to be continued, we have offered supervision within school on an individual basis.

"We at Shaftesbury School are very much looking forward to welcoming our students back into the classroom, and for schooling to feel much more normal than it has done for some time."

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