England’s Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will meet head teachers’ leaders later on Monday to discuss their concerns about managing the coronavirus epidemic.
Schools have raised concerns about how they will get through the exam season and manage with reduced staff.
The government policy remains that schools should stay open, unless Public Health England advises them otherwise.
Unions said school leaders were “showing calm and assured leadership”.
There are currently no plans to close schools as a result of the coronavirus outbreak and they are staying open, unless they are closed for a deep clean.
But head teachers want to know what they should prioritise when their staffing is affected, and many are concerned about how they can support more vulnerable families and children on free school meals.
Challenges and disruption
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The concerns we will be raising with him are: the challenges of keeping open schools and colleges when a growing number of staff are away from work because they are self-isolating; the potential for disruption to GCSE and A-levels and what contingencies will be put in place; and how we ensure children in poverty do not go hungry and that vulnerable young people are safeguarded if schools are closed.
“We aim to work through these issues in order to arrive at constructive solutions about the way ahead.
“School and college leaders are showing calm and assured leadership in these difficult times and we can reassure the public that everything that can be done to support young people will be done.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said schools’ main priority was keeping children safe.
“It’s important that we all work together to do the maximum we can. We will be working jointly with the secretary of state to establish a credible plan for schools and colleges in the coming weeks,” said Mr Whiteman.
“School leaders and their teams are determined to play their part in the national civic response to this crisis. We will use the meeting to bring some clarity and direction.
“Vulnerable children and families are uppermost in our minds. For some children, a day at school is a place of sanctuary and nourishment, as well as a place of education.
“Once the immediate issues are under control, I am confident that school leaders and their teams will do all that they can to support children and young people throughout the remainder of the crisis.”
The National Education Union has written to England’s schools watchdog, Ofsted, asking it to stop conducting inspections.
The letter says: “We are very concerned, given the serious challenges that Covid-19 poses for schools, that Ofsted is still planning to conduct inspections.
“We fail to understand that, in light of the government’s decision to move to the ‘delay’ phase, Ofsted has revised its deferral policy to defer inspections on providers that are ‘affected’.
“We have to ask the question – can you name any school in England which has not been affected by Covid -19?”
But Ofsted says all requests for deferred inspections will be looked at “very favourably”.
A spokeswoman said: “The spread of Covid-19 poses serious challenges to schools, colleges, childcare and social care providers – not least the potential impact on attendance and staffing.
“In light of the government’s decision to move to the ‘delay’ phase, we have amended our deferral policy so we can now defer inspections of affected providers.
“We are proactively asking schools and all other types of providers we monitor, if they want to request a deferral because of coronavirus, and we will look very favourably on all such requests.”