As it stands, children should return to school in September but how will this work? What will classrooms look like? Will parents who deem it unsafe for their children be forced to send their offspring, or be fined or even imprisoned? Will Ofsted reports rely on 95% plus attendance figures for a good rating? How will special needs children receive the hands on care they need? I don’t have all the answers, but I do have questions you may want to ask along with some information that may be useful. I also have my own thoughts on the subject and I do wonder if you agree with me.
What We Know Right Now
Many of us are in limbo right now. The news tells us that children will be returning to school but with terms starting in just a few weeks we’re left with little information. A lot of us feel as though we’re in the dark and even fewer of us have bought new school uniform compared to last year. There’s no influx of Back to School adverts, there’s no back to school survival guides in magazines, and parents are left wondering if they have missed important news updates as they struggle on with the current dynamic.
I have 3 children, one is 19 and autistic so still needs care, one is 16 and has been denied the opportunity to sit her GCSEs this year and will hopefully be starting college in a few weeks, my youngest is 9 and likes a lot of attention and is very talkative, so it’s been a struggle to entertain her and work during the pandemic, she wants to return to primary school in September.
Our primary school got the go ahead from the government a few months ago to allow reception children and year 6 children to return to school. However, as the school is small they decided not to allow year 6 to return as they couldn’t uphold social distancing measures. This makes me wonder how they’ll cope with a full school.
How Primary School Classrooms Have Changed
Staff tell me the school has changed dramatically. Everything made of fabric or porous material has been removed, only wipeable toys and surfaces remain. No more is the comfy little couch that the children listen to stories on, the beanbags, the teddy bears. Instead desks are placed 2 metres apart, and rooms are sparse. The teachers are doubling up as cleaners as they remove any trace of their existence after every touch, while handwashing is prevalent. The school is trying its absolute best to keep staff and children safe while following government guidelines to the letter. A full school will mean a lot of work, as children are separated into bubbles, more staff will be needed (but unlikely to be forthcoming as budgets won’t allow), while cleaning will become just as important as teaching. It’s difficult to imagine how all of this will be sorted within just a few weeks.
Are You Getting the Back to School Vibe?
I may be alone, but I’m not getting a back to school vibe. Normally, by the middle of August, we’ve had a trip to Smiggle and stocked up on shiny new school supplies. We’ve visited Clarks and bought shiny new shoes (although our last visit there was decidedly awful so we’re using Start-Rite now), we’ve topped up meal cards, bought new uniforms, thrown away threadbare socks and organised bus passes, but this year these tasks don’t seem too urgent. Are you getting the back to school vibe? Have you stocked up on school supplies?
Should the Children Return to School?
Don’t get me wrong, although I have fears I’m happy for my children to return. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to write, to work without referring disagreements, or fielding a thousand questions, taking breaks to find entertainment, or preparing what feels like the sixth meal of the day. IF they do return, I’m taking a couple of days off just to enjoy the peace and (hopefully) absence of guilt as the guilt has been weighing me down, as if I have a brick in the bottom of my stomach, for the whole of lockdown. Am I giving the children enough attention? Am I following the teaching guides? Have I read with them enough? Am I working enough? Am I giving my clients 100%? I feel selfish for wanting the children to return, am I putting their health at risk? I’m sure I’m not alone with this internal battle, many of us are expected to return to work but don’t have the childcare to be able to do so, it seems as though plans haven’t been well though through and single parents without family support especially are finding it nigh on impossible to work.
How Does it Look for Teenagers Starting College?
It’s been a tough year for children and teenagers, my 16 year old daughter recently learned that her GCSE results chosen for her were too generous, and now those deciding her future must be more harsh, she’s worried not only about receiving poor results but also how she’ll manage GCSEs and a fulltime college course if she wants to resit. Not only is she nervous about starting college with a lot of new people, she’s nervous about following the rules, wearing a mask, how it will look and how she’ll get there. Currently buses travelling to the college are at full capacity with people standing, so how will these adapt to socially distanced guidelines when it’s time to ferry children to school and college?
What Are My Rights if I Keep My Children Off School?
If the first day back comes along and I feel anxious, will I be penalised for keeping my children home? Just two days before lockdown I was in a battle with my daughter’s school as my youngest had the flu. She actually had all of the symptoms of the Coronavirus, but we didn’t know much about it then. I’d kept her off school for two weeks as it was taking her a long time to recover. The school told me I should dose her up with Calpol and send her in. I was threatened with intervention, with fines, and I asked them to take me to court. I argued that if all parents follow that advice, these bugs that keep going around will never disappear as children will constantly be susceptible. Will the same advice apply now? If my child has a temperature will I be told to dose her up and send her in or face fines and court? The answer remains to be seen. There will be a lot of parents who won’t want to send their children back to school over fears for their health, their parent’s health and their own health, will these be fined? The answer is probably yes. Gavin Williamson, the education secretary has said that only those with very good reasons not to return will be exempt from returning to the classroom when speaking to Sky News reporter, Kay Burley. It seems his stance on attendance hasn’t changed and this will surely drip down to the teachers who will again try to force parents into making their children attend as they worry about repercussions if targets aren’t met.
As it stands, a recent survey led by ITV shows that 59% of parents will not be sending their children back to school in September. Are you part of that 59%? Will you home school?
Children Are Super Spreaders but Science Says Not with Covid 19
It is widely known that children are super spreaders in schools due to the amount of contact they have with others, and how they play and interact however a scientific advisor to the government claims there is no evidence that children spread Covid 19. This seems absurd. Children can surely carry the disease and bring it back to vulnerable adults, yet we’re being told that children are practically immune. A low chance does not mean no chance (for further reading do see the sources below).
It’s Life Jim, But Not as We Know It
In summary, many signs point to children going back to school in September, but parents will need a lot more information on how this will work. Schools also need to communicate with parents frequently to dispel fears and to make sure the children are prepared. Right now, it’s the summer holidays and no communication is coming from the schools, as would be the norm, and so parents are bumbling along waiting on information so they can make one of the most important choices in their lives.
If you have any answers to any of the questions raised in this article, please do let us know and I’ll update the article accordingly. In the meantime, please understand that you are not alone. Most of us are winging it at this stage and have no idea what will happen from one day to the next. Give yourself a break and do try to go with the flow.