Critical workers and vulnerable children who can access schools or educational settings

List of critical workers (key workers) and vulnerable children and young people who can access full-time education provision in the case of future restrictions on education during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

This publication was withdrawn on

The critical workers and vulnerable children list is now available in the guidance on emergency planning and response for education, childcare, and children’s social care settings

Applies to England



This guidance is for:

  • local authorities
  • school staff
  • early years staff
  • college staff
  • social care workers
  • parents
  • employers of parents with vulnerable children, or who are listed as critical workers in this guidance

It applies to all schools, childcare providers, colleges and local authorities in England.

It explains which children can attend school during the coronavirus outbreak.

The guidance as it was on 5 January 2021 is available, as referenced in relevant regulations.

Published 19 March 2020
Last updated 2 January 2022 + show all updates
  1. Updated the list of vulnerable children and young people, and who this includes.

  2. Information updated to confirm the return of pupils and students to school and college from 8 March. The list of vulnerable children and critical workers remains the same.

  3. Updated 'Critical workers' section to clarify that parents and carers who are critical workers should keep their children at home if they can.

  4. Removed tiered guidance information. The list of vulnerable children and children of critical workers remains the same.

  5. Updated with information about the return to school and college in January, and added those whose work is critical to EU Transition to the list of critical workers.

  6. Updated to reflect the latest guidance on the contingency framework for education and childcare settings.

  7. Updated link to the new national restrictions which came into force on Thursday 5 November 2020.

  8. Updated information to reflect that all pupils can now return to education full-time and that further information has been published about possible local interventions.

  9. Added information on how primary schools can use flexibility to welcome back additional pupils this term, where they have capacity.

  10. Guidance updated to reflect the announcement by the Prime Minister that the government’s 5 tests have been met and the decision, based on all the evidence, to move forward with the wider opening of education and childcare settings.

  11. Updated to reflect that children of critical workers are encouraged to attend school, and to reflect plans for wider opening of schools from 1 June, at the earliest. Updated information defining vulnerable children, in line with existing guidance, for the purpose of continued education.

  12. Guidance title amended to help users find it. No change to the content.

  13. First published.