Why we won’t be sending our children back to school in June

I want to caveat this with two things: firstly, this isn’t a judgement on people who a.) are choosing to send their kids or b.) don’t have any other option – far far from it. Every time I comment on instagram or anywhere, there will be someone who takes it upon themselves to tell me how inconsiderate and awful I am – those who see it as their righteous calling to hold strangers on the internet accountable for their every word, but fail to extend the same accountability to the people in power – so, if you fall into the group of people who are choosing differently to me or you simply don’t have a choice, this isn’t a judgement of you or a dismissal of your situation it’s purely relevant to us. Also, if you don’t agree with me that is *fine*. Secondly, the school return in June isn’t 100% confirmed. I know this. I read and listen to politics, so please, don’t feel the need to inform me with a snippy comment or email. We have made the decision based on the assumption R will stay down and the government will stick with it’s plan.

Are we on the same page? Super duper.

Ok, so why aren’t we sending the kids back in June/July, as is the proposed plan by the government?

Well, under the current proposed plans, Edith would be due to return to school if R stays under 1. In England, R is estimated to be between 0.5 and 0.9 (nothing like jumping to it the second it slides *just* under 1 at that 0.9 eh?) but in the North East, when the proposal was put out, R was at around 0.9. The statistical probability of it staying under 1 when we have loosened lockdown measures as of today, we can’t walk our dogs without seeing kids and families meeting up and we’re already teetering so close to 1 is, in my opinion, about as likely as Donald Trump apologising for his racism towards China – it could happen, but we know it won’t.

Even if we, as a region, slide over 1, England might not and so of course we will continue onward with the proposal despite the huge risk in health.

Aside from this, Edith’s return would be pretty difficult to explain to our boys when they aren’t able to return with her. Edith is in reception, and the boys are year 2 and 4. What do we say? “We know you love school and miss your friends Toby, but it’s not safe for you yet”, “but mummy, why can Edith go?” “Well darling, Boris says some ambiguous scientific research – that the government fails to credit or release – says that she can go back because… well actually we don’t know, someone has to go first and she just so happens to fall into reception. Sure, she licks other people sometimes and I’ve had to ask her not to put a stick in her mouth on our daily walks, but the government reckon she can social distance first.” We could try and sell them the same line the government are trying to sell us about how reception, year 1 and year 6 are in need of going back because they are at critical periods and they need to be in a classroom setting… but they are pretty clever to be honest and they won’t buy it anymore than I will. I would need to explain to the kids that Edith is going first, and then in a month they will be expected to return, so that they can have… one month of schooling before the plan to “use schools to restart the economy” is put into disarray by the summer holidays. Hmm. It doesn’t make sense to me and it won’t to them.

Beyond the utterly bizarre way that these year groups have been chosen, we are the only one of the nations that has chosen to return to school, with first ministers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales expressing dismay at the rush to reopen. In fact, the Government seem to be dismissing their counterparts, the teacher’s unions, teachers and concerns by parents associations left, right and centre. Everyone seems to be urging against this move, everyone actually working in schools or with experience working with children, seems to be telling us that this is reckless and won’t work. Let’s have a think about the numbers as well – schools are to return with classes no bigger than 15 right? Excellent. So take the average class and you will need to split it in two, one in one room with a TA, one in another with the teacher. Then in order to get those students to sit 2 meters apart, you will only be able to have a maximum of 10 pupils in each room, possibly 8. You will then need to ensure that they stay apart. It simply doesn’t work. How many schools do you know that have extra classrooms, and how many 4-5 year olds do you know that would be able to understand staying apart, no matter how advanced they are? It’s pretty impossible to get most adults to understand at the supermarket so a 5 year old? Ok then.

Within my own community I have heard stories of children falling but rather than hand holding and a cuddle, teaching staff have been told to hand them a cold compress (paper towels, we all know that is what it is but let’s stay fancy and call it a cold compress) and ask them to administer their own first aid. One woman wrote to me and told me she’d had her cousin on the phone who was incredibly distressed because, under their new guidelines, a child in her care soiled herself and was given a plastic bag and change of clothes, then left to sort herself out from a distance. Do we know that these things are 100% accurate accounts? No. They are probable though, and they are heart breaking, not just for students who want to run up to their teacher and give them a hug, but also for the teacher’s/staff themselves who work endlessly (and if there is anything I have learnt whilst trying to homeschool, it’s that it is pretty endless) but are being asked to provide the best care they can in an impossible way.

Since I’ve mentioned them, let’s talk about the teachers and staff. When did they become sacrificial? Whilst we’ve been staying home to stay safe, save lives and protect the NHS, clapping our way through Thursday nights with a big smile and a beverage, teachers have been the forgotten workers, slogging away and caring – as they always have – for key worker’s kids. Teachers have been given a footnote in the coronavirus saga, expected to fulfil a role that they get little thanks for without PPE, without danger pay and without any bloody clapping. Teachers are still in school, still working and in addition expected to help us homeschool our children via zoom or providing work for us to do as best we can – all whilst being added to the end of Bojo’s speech like piece of fruit you forgot to add to the shopping list “Oh yes, and the teachers”. To fulfil a role that puts you into the closest of quarters with young children and teens who are potential carriers of the virus in order to support society is massive to me, and we thank them by flooding our schools with more children when they have told us it isn’t going to work. I’m so angry for them, I want to protect them as best I can, and for me, that is not sending our children back.

As if that wasn’t enough, we then have to consider our key workers and their children, who they haven’t been given to option to keep home. Key workers are expected to be at work, or lose their jobs, regardless of their circumstances and they are sending their children to school at potential risk, shielding them where they can. Why increase that risk to them, to their children, with MORE children, less distancing and fewer restrictions? After everything they have done for us, it’s a smack in the face. They do not have a choice, so if we do, why rush?

I am not naive and I realise that being able to make this choice is a privilege, we are self employed and work from home, and whilst it’s incredibly hard to work and homeschool, it’s doable. It is because I am keenly aware of that privilege that I feel so passionate that schools shouldn’t return, forcing people back to work and children into contact to spread the virus. Ultimately schools are not child care providers. This is not a black and white issue, it’s easy to sit here and think only about my own children, when there are children for whom school is a safe place, but there are other provisions in place for these children, free meals are offered and those at risk can attend school alongside key worker’s children. We keep referring to coronavirus as indiscriminate, but it’s far from it and make no mistake that this move to reopen schools is going to affect the poorest in society and the “low skilled” workers as Boris insultingly put it. As I said, this is far from black and white and the sad reality of coronavirus is that it’s lose lose, whichever way we turn there are losses and there are faults. As the furlough scheme has been extended, I feel school closures should be also. If one parent or carer is home, no matter how hard it is, it will be safer for all concerned.

There you have it. That’s why we won’t be sending our children back on the 1st June.

19 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Clare
    May 14, 2020 / 8:44 am

    100% agree. I have a yr8 son, yr6 son and pre school daughter. I am a keyworker in a care home and I’m worried sick about what I’m bringing home. We also live with our 94 year nan and I’m not willing to increase the risk of another person bringing something back.

  2. Avatar
    Kate
    May 14, 2020 / 7:51 am

    Really well written. I’m a secondary school teacher and apparently these year groups have been chosen partly because they have less social interaction outside of school with other people apart from their immediate family. The Government have said that a teacher has no more risk than an office worker but I fail to see this when I will have to come into close proximity with at least 15 children five times a day potentially, whereas an office worker will
    not go near anyone else. The photos from France of children sitting in chalk drawn squares for playtime are absolutely heartbreaking too. How can we put our precious little people through that?

    • Avatar
      Anonymous
      May 16, 2020 / 8:35 pm

      I also struggled with this when Government ministers have said secondary school children can be left at home whilst parents work? Will they not be pressing for neglect if God forbid a child has an accident at home (probably not because it fits what they want). Also, what are the chances of secondary school children left at home not meeting up with their friends ‘accidentally’ at the shop or whilst out for a walk? If I was being generous I might say that 90% (as I am being very generous) 10% of secondary school children doing this is still a huge number nationwide.

  3. Avatar
    Alana
    May 14, 2020 / 3:32 am

    I agree with every single word and even tho I live in Scotland we have had no commination on school return at the minute. I also fall into the high risk category and I also have 2 younger kids at home, so am with you on this my daughter won’t be back anytime soon.

  4. Avatar
    Nicola
    May 14, 2020 / 12:56 am

    Any schools returning before the new school year is the government playing roulette with many many lives.

  5. Avatar
    Anonymous
    May 13, 2020 / 11:42 pm

    I totally agree I work in schools and at the moment I can’t even send my dogs to the groomers because they are closed . But parents are being told to send their children back to school .. Makes you kind of ask the question who is being better thought of or are we being used for some sort of experiment without consent!!! .

  6. Avatar May 13, 2020 / 10:43 pm

    Couldn’t agree more!

  7. Avatar
    Karen Dunkley
    May 13, 2020 / 8:47 pm

    Thank you so so much for talking common sense! I’m a teacher and finding the whole thing utterly ridiculous. We work in a three tier schooling system where students join my school at the beginning of Year 6 and leave to go to secondary school at the end of Year 8. We are being told by the Government to open for Year 6. Why?? It makes no sense. When questioned if this applied to us, the response….yes, it will allow parity across the Country!?! So I’m going to school to teach children who have already transitioned to our school?! I’m livid! My daughter (4 y/o) will have to go to nursery and not social distance (because let’s be honest she doesn’t understand) so that I can go to school and teach kids that aren’t preparing for transition…..just because I’m told to! Today in school an 11 y/o got dropped off by his carer and cried. He cried because he was scared. All I could do was watch and say “it’s ok”…..it was heartbreaking. I’m dreading 1st June and I thank you wholeheartedly for having a common sense approach. I just hope others follow suit! Xx

  8. Avatar
    Emily Dawson
    May 13, 2020 / 8:11 pm

    Perfectly worded and most definitely my view too. I started working in a school as admin in September and my children started to attend a different school also. One in Nursery and one in Reception. The eldest took her time to settle but then began to love it. They have missed when they haven’t been in but that have had to go sometimes as I still have to work and my husband is a shift worker in sewerage so has worked constantly throughout all of this. When they have gone in it’s been so unsettling for them as they haven’t really seen any teachers that they knew, they don’t know any of the older children and it’s not the school that they’d only just adjusted to a mere few months ago. I am guessing that as my school fills with more pupils that I will have to be working more hours onsite which will then in turn mean that my children will have to be going to their school more. If I had the choice though I would most definitely not be sending them in. Thank you for standing up and stating your choice.

  9. Avatar
    Sarah Louise Green
    May 13, 2020 / 4:38 pm

    Whole heartedly agree. My son isnt going back on 1st June. I was very emotional when writing and sending off the email to school yesterday giving my reasons why. I feel guilty that he will be missing out.. but the need to protect the asthmatics within our household and our newborn daughter must outweigh it for us. The fact it is not being labelled as compulsive return to school says it all for me. They don’t want to make the decision to send them back to fall entirely on the heads of government as if it results in a second peak or our children getting poorly/bringing it into our homes then they will be able to turn around and say it was our choice to send them. Also, if it is not considered safe to visit grandparents /aunts and uncles /cousins, how is it safe to send them to a school full of relative strangers? Rant over 🙂

    • Avatar
      Emily Dawson
      May 13, 2020 / 8:18 pm

      I totally agree!! The schools in my opinion are under the same impression, that if you can or choose to keep your children safe and at home then you should. Well done you on making the right choice for you and your family.

  10. Avatar
    Leanne
    May 13, 2020 / 3:38 pm

    Well said! I’m a Teaching Assistant with a child in nursery at the school and another in Year 1, we will all have to go back. Myself and my husband have asthma and it’s been recommended in schools that staff won’t be using facemasks and other PPE yet we’ll be indirectly exposed to up to 90 people through the 15 children in our care… however if we go to the shop at lunchtime we should put on a facemask for the whole 5 mins we’re in there for protection for the 5 people who we’ll be in contact with… those 5 people won’t cough in my eyeballs, wipe snot on my top or put a tooth which has just fallen out into my hand!

    It’s also detrimental for children’s mental health to be in school for 6 months (some of them have only just settled in in nursery and reception!), out for 2.5 months, back in for 7 weeks and then out again for 6 weeks for the summer holidays. How are those children going to be comforted?!

    In the EYFS classes it’s been recommended that soft furnishings and any equipment that cannot be cleaned properly between uses… how is that going to benefit our 3, 4 and 5 year olds and what are they going to play with all day in that situation?! The majority of children will be safer at home and will have a more enriched education at home for the coming months.

    Boris even used the term “childcare” in his question and answer session on Monday… that’s all we are, disposable childcare so the children can go back to school to be guinea pigs to see how safe it is to have people in groups again so they can reopen Parliament when they know they will be safe 🤦🏻‍♀️

    If I wasn’t a teaching assistant and had any other choice then my children wouldn’t be going back on 1st June IF the schools reopen to those year groups.

    • Avatar
      Emily Dawson
      May 13, 2020 / 8:23 pm

      Really agree. If my child were to fall and need love and care then I’d most certainly want them to be comforted as I would have done if I was there. These are such hard times and we’re all feeling the strain and stress of it all. So to expect our youngest children to respect and follow the rules of social distancing and then not want comforting in their time of sadness and discomfort is abominable. It’s all so very sad 😢

  11. Avatar
    Jordan
    May 13, 2020 / 2:53 pm

    Completely agree and we are very much doing the same. Just wondered how you found out your areas R figure?

  12. Avatar
    Lisa
    May 13, 2020 / 2:45 pm

    I am work in a primary school with a child in yr9 and one in year 6 and it’s a scary thought to know what to do for the best. This is perfect, makes sense, thank you x

  13. Avatar
    Sophie Owen
    May 13, 2020 / 2:33 pm

    As a teacher – thank you. This brought tears to my eyes 😚 I can’t imagine how it is going to work but I put my class before my health at all times as it is so I’ll be there for those who return with the expectation that some won’t. But I’ll be scared, I’ll be worried for their health, my health and the health of my family who I’m now putting in more risk. I’ll be scared I’m getting too close and scared I’m not doing the job I should be doing. Children of all ages need caring for, whether that’s a quick chat or a rub on the back if they fall. The fact that won’t be allowed to happen is simply heartbreaking.

    • Avatar
      Emily Dawson
      May 13, 2020 / 8:31 pm

      Thank you! Thank you for all you have done and all that is to come. These are such strange and scary times and no one really knows how this will work. But to know that there are teachers out there that care as much as you do then it helps to know that you will try your very best!

  14. Avatar
    Alexandra Hodgson
    May 13, 2020 / 2:28 pm

    I whole heartedly agree Harriet on all points.

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