Last week I received an email from my child’s school, letting me know that all being well, (whatever that means anymore) school will be reopening for non-key worker children, in Reception, and Years 1 and 6 on 1st June.
I have two children: one in Year 2 and one in Year 6. Our headteacher has asked us to reply within a couple of days whether I will be sending my Year 6 child back to school, to gauge numbers. The thing is, depending on the hour and minute you ask me if I’ll be sending my Year 6 child back, I veer from “Are you insane? It’s the apocalypse!” to a much more relaxed “Maybe, it would be nice to prepare her for senior school” which is what would be happening if she went back. I really don’t know from one minute to the next, what is the ‘right’ thing to do? Is there even a right thing?
I replied to the headteacher, letting her know I didn’t feel capable of answering her question, until at least the next big Government announcement, as the situation is constantly evolving and might very well be different by then. Just seeing the pictures in the news showing beaches rammed with people makes me fear there will be a spike in the forthcoming weeks, so maybe this will be a moot point by then?
Whilst discussing the return of kids to English schools with my mum, she said to me “If one child catches Coronavirus at school and dies, that’s simply one child too many”, and although this is obviously a pessimistic what-if attitude, it is weighing on my mind.
The science behind reports saying kids are not passing Corona to adults, isn’t quite strong enough for me to rely on it yet. Even in Australia, where they discovered some kids who were back at school were infected, yet did not pass it on to anyone else, is AMAZING news. But surely the presence of it still being brought into schools is enough to make me question whether it’s too soon?
Full disclosure here – I’m not that mum who relishes spending every waking moment with their kids. I love and adore them of course, but I am so missing alone time. Of course I want them back at school! Of course they need proper teaching. And of course I am sick to the back teeth of being asked “What’s for lunch? Can I have a snack? Can I have some money for Roblox? I am borrreeed”.
So I decided to ask my school’s Year 6 parents if they would be sending their children back. Out of a class of 33 children 12 people replied. Out of those, 7 said their children were going back and 5 were unsure or not sending their children back next week.
Our school have communicated well, detailing a number of new measures to ensure the safety of the kids, and staff, so that school can be deemed a safe environment, as much as possible. Here’s just some of what they have outlined:
- Staggered arrivals and departures in the morning and afternoon
- Daily temperature checks of all kids and staff before coming into school
- Kids are to use their own equipment and avoid sharing: bring your own pencil case
- The school will be sanitised daily, more so than it previously was
- Staff will have gloves and appropriate face coverings – children will not
- There will be no school assemblies
- Break/lunch times staggered
- Movement around the school will work in a clockwise fashion
- Regular handwashing scheduled throughout the day
- And interestingly, if you choose not to send your child to school (and that year group has returned), work will no longer be sent home to your child
I’m not here to fear monger, this is just my thought process, which veers wildly. Is the risk too great, not just for children but for teachers too? We can’t control head lice in schools, so can we control this? And with news that a very small number of children are developing a different disease linked with Covid-19, do the risks of illness and possible death outweigh being in school? And of course, the risk of this Kawasaki-type disease is infinitesimally small – yet a friend of a friend has a 10-year-old child currently hospitalised with this.
On the flip side, I’ve read about the risks of keeping our children off school longer than they have been already. Less exercise – which is massively true of my kids – they are absolute couch potatoes with square eyes. Less sunshine – again, totally true of my kids. I dread to think what their vitamin D levels are, even with the hot sunny days we’ve been having. Our trampoline remains static, while their devices are in constant use most days.
The stimulation kids get from face-to-face interaction with their teachers and being with their peers can not be matched with video calls and online learning. And we must also remember vulnerable children, whose home life might be an unsafe or non-learning setting. We know they need school now more than ever.
The DoE have said parents will not be financially penalised for not sending children back to school, which does mean we have the choice and a big decision to make.
As wonderful as she is, my 6-year-old really needs proper educating, but we’ve been told on repeat to stay at home, prevent the risk of infection. Now that message has changed.
But my issue isn’t what the school have in place, which seems perfectly reasonable to me – I think it comes down to this: if my kids are at home, they are not being exposed to anyone except our immediate family unit and therefore risk of infection is low. If one child goes to school, the risk of exposure goes way up. Do I want to take that risk? The answer is still, I just don’t know. So, I’m going to take it day by day.
About the author
Mum-of-2 Danielle Graph is MadeForMums’ Community Manager, looking after our friendly and supportive forum and Facebook communities.