Parents are split in opinion over children returning to school next week. While some are happy for kids to return, others remain fearful about coronavirus.
‘Shattering kids’ mental health can only be taken so far’
“I’m relieved that schools are reopening,” said Lizzie Brown. “I understand that there’s concern about the virus spreading, but people face different risks every day and shattering kids’ mental health to protect their physical health should only be taken so far.”
Brown, who developed short-term memory loss two years ago, said she has been trying her best to homeschool and entertain her two children – taking them open water swimming and hiking – but their relationships have become occasionally strained.
“Staying here they don’t have an outlet besides each other, even though they get along really well,” she added. “I find being at home with the kids quite exhausting and it doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s the best thing for them either.”
And she hopes that her seven-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter will not be subject to restrictions at school, as her son in particular found it difficult to compute.
“I’m hoping that it will feel more normal this time around,” she added. “I sent my son back before the summer holidays and he hated it. He came out really upset, I was dragging him in screaming. He was finding it incredibly hard to stay in his little box.” Lizzie Brown, 36, stay-at-home mum, South Yorkshire
‘Trying to homeschool, child mind, work and stay sane was tricky’
Jenny Hassett is also pleased that schools are reopening after the summer holiday – to provide her children more structure and allow her to focus on her work. She questions why there was a six-week break after months of no physical classes for most pupils.
“They were quite resistant to homeschooling and they didn’t want to do the work I was setting,” she said. “Trying to homeschool, child mind a two-year-old, work and stay sane was quite tricky, and my two primary aged children desperately want to see their friends and are keen to learn from their teachers.”
But she is frustrated that her children’s primary school have staggered starts and finishes to such a degree she will have to wait over an hour to collect them – and her four-year-old will have 90 minutes less school time.
“He’ll go in last and come home first, being at school from 9.30am until 2.45pm,” Hassett said. “I think there’s got to be a better way of doing it. I can’t fathom why the younger kids are getting less time.”
Plus, there will be no breakfast club or after school club, as the school is still believed to be seeking to keep children in bubbles. “It’s not workable for me and my husband,” she said. “I was quite disappointed, I thought it would be almost back to normal.” Jenny Hassett, 38, accountant, Newport
‘Education is important but the safety of my children means more to us’
Louise Peach* has decided to keep her five children at home for the first few weeks of September. “One of our daughters, who is autistic and has brain damage from birth, is high risk,” she said. “We don’t know enough about how she might be affected if she gets coronavirus and we don’t want to take that chance.”
Peach, who has diabetes, and her husband, who has asthma, have been shielding with the children since March, only going out occasionally for walks in country parks. “It’s worrying – both for us and for them,” she said. “If they get coronavirus at school and bring it back to us we could die. Who will look after them then?”
They too, have concerns over being carriers of the virus, she added: “One of my girls said she’s worried about going back in case she brings it back to us.”
Her children, ranging from the ages of 11-15, go to four different schools, and Peach said she would resist any attempts to force them back. “If any of the schools say they’ll fine me I’ll deregister the three who are full-time. Education is really important but the safety of my children means more to us.” Louise Peach, in her 40s, Kent
‘I’m happy to receive a fine’
“I’m not sending my kids back to school as I don’t feel it’s safe,” Ammar Noorwali said. “The number of virus cases increased in Scotland after they reopened the schools. It’s so scary and I don’t want to put my kids at risk. I think the only way is to move to e-learning until the virus disappears.”
Fundamentally, Noorwali said, his children are more at risk of contracting and transmitting the virus by going to school – especially from September to December when last year they collectively got flu four times, head lice and chickenpox. “If anyone gets it, everyone gets it,” he said. “It’s risky for teachers too.”
Trust in the authorities is at a low ebb. “I don’t trust them now to tell us if anyone is infected,” he said. “Kids are at low risk of the virus but they can transfer it to us, we are at greater risk as well if kids go back. I’m happy to receive a fine. But I would refuse to pay and appeal. I’m thinking to withdraw them now before they impose it.”
And he railed against apparent contradictions in the government’s guidelines over wearing masks indoors in some places, but not others, claiming that the policies are symbolic and simply about protecting the economy. “They don’t care about people,” he said. “Who would be responsible if my kids did get infected? Nobody, they’d just say isolate yourself at home.” Ammar Noorwali, 39, businessman, Milton Keynes
*Some names have been changed.
Source: The Guardian