EDUCATION bosses in Blackburn with Darwen and at Lancashire County Council are working together on plans to open schools with a skeleton staff on Monday for the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils.

They and headteachers are preparing contingency plans and contacting the relevant parents as the government prepares further guidance on who is eligible.

The preparations follow Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that all schools will close their gates ‘until further notice’ from tonight except for a small group of pupils.

Parents deemed key workers are understood to include NHS staff, those in the armed forces; teachers and childcare staff; care home workers; social workers; police officers, police community support officers and civilian staff; prison officers; probation staff, firefighters; local authority planners; environmental health officers; and Highway Agency traffic officers.

Lancashire County Council provides education across 12 boroughs including Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale.

Some schools will stay open for vulnerable pupils and the children of key works over the Easter holiday.

Jo Siddle, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s head of education, said: “Across Blackpool, Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen – education teams have been working together.”

Cllr Maureen Bateson, of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “There is a lot of detail to unpick and we are working through it. However, with both pupil and staff absences the strain on our schools has been starting to show with many unable to function fully.

“It’s the right thing to focus on vulnerable children. We need to ensure that key workers can continue to support Blackburn and Darwen’s residents.

“We have had confirmation that schools will be given the flexibility to deliver meals or provide shop vouchers to children entitled to free school meals if they are no longer attending school.”

Lancashire education director Edwina Grant said: “If opening a school is not viable due to reduced staffing levels then the county council will work with the school to facilitate this."

Mr Johnson said if advice on staying away from pubs and restaurants was followed and it slowed the spread of the disease, there would be no need to order their closure.