'It's time to get our children back into the classroom' -Teachers and parents on schools reopening
Parents and teachers share whether they think schools should reopen in June
By Telegraph Readers
18 May 2020 • 2:52pm
At the government's press briefing on Saturday Education Secretary Gavin Williamson sought to reassure parents and teachers on the decision to reopen schools in England.
He said the proposals were based on the 'best scientific advice' and that certain year groups including Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 will return next month as they 'stand to lose more by missing school'. The measures designed to protect students and teachers include reducing class sizes as well as rigorous hygiene and hand washing, Mr Williamson confirmed.
However, despite a major study concluding that the risk of coronavirus spreading in schools is 'extremely low' , some parents and teachers are concerned about the practicalities of social distancing measures in schools and whether the safety of children and staff can be assured.
The Telegraph sourced the opinions of teachers and parents on children returning to school in June from our comments section, Politics WhatsApp group and via email. Read on for the best comments and join the conversation by sharing your view on when and why schools should reopen in the comments section below.
'I cannot square my child returning to school with the official government guidance'
"I will probably not be sending my 5-year-old to school on June 1. At this point I cannot square this with official government guidance. The official guidance states, among other things, that activities deemed too risky include: using a playground or outdoor gym, exercising in an indoor studio or gym and gathering with more than one member of another household. Engaging in any of those activities, at this point in time, risks a £100 fine doubling for each subsequent offence.
"It defies logic that using a playground in a park is deemed excessively risky but using a playground at a school is somehow fine. Meeting in a park with more than one person from another household is punishable with a £100 fine but meeting dozens of people indoor at school is okay."
'The lockdown is accelerating the divide between children in state and private schools'
"As someone with children at both state and private schools I can see how the lockdown will be accelerating the divide between the performance of children attending school in both sectors.
"One son, at an academic independent day school, has a full day of activity. If he isn’t logged in his tutor emails me very quickly to find out where he is.
"My younger daughter is at an outstanding state primary. She never logs into the school online platform and has barely submitted a piece of work. Nobody has noticed her absence.
"I mean no criticism of the primary school which perhaps does not have the staff and resources to cope. But there is no doubt many children will be falling behind."
'The teachers are fantastic and want to teach'
"My 5-year-old has been at school as we are key workers. The teachers are fantastic and want to teach.
"Either schools are safe, or my son is a potential sacrifice to keep the NHS running. It’s the former. I really don’t get the "not until September" mantra, this won’t be gone in 12 weeks. Like all things with ending lockdown, let's take small steps and opening primary schools seems a good start."
'I am extremely concerned by the recommendation that no PPE or social distancing is necessary"
"I will not be sending my children back to school. I do not believe the government’s view that young children don’t transmit the virus, as I feel that the scientific evidence for this is weak.
"I am extremely puzzled and concerned by the recommendation that no PPE or social distancing is necessary in schools.
"I live in Leeds where transmission rates are nowhere near low enough for a return to school on June 1 to be safe for the whole community."
'My son is badly missing his peers'
"I want my reception-aged child back at school. He is badly missing his peers. I am not a teacher and he needs teaching.
"The schools have been open for keyworkers' children so surely the risk has been there throughout?"
'A few days or half days a week is the only way forward'
"I work in a special needs school where my children do not understand social distancing. However they need to be back in school for their wellbeing and that of their families and it is a difficult dilemma for school management.
"A few days or half days a week for all children with regular hand washing and cleaning is the only way forward."
'Schools should not rush to open, but wait until September'
"I am a secondary school teacher and parent to a girl in Year 1. I am very concerned, particularly as I do not know what measures will be put in place other than 15 students maximum to a class. Years 10 and 12 are young adults. As such, there is surely a high risk of passing the virus around.
"I will have to change my teaching method and rethink things that I’d normally do as second nature. Thinking about staying safe, not touching things and teaching is going to be hard! It will be hard for the students to not approach me and each other. As a languages teacher my lessons normally involve interaction. I’m not sure how to do this now.
"Do we need Perspex screens at the teachers' desks? Who will supervise a deep clean? Will we have warm water that we can use without touching taps and plenty of soap? What will happen if students don’t respect the two-metre rule? Will staff have a place to go at break where we can maintain social distance from each other? (My school has small workrooms, not a staffroom).
"Schools should not rush to open, but wait until September so special measures can be put in place and all can prepare."
'I am more than prepared to return to the classroom'
"I am a secondary school teacher with 32 years of experience.
"My experience of trying to support homeschooling has been mixed. My well-motivated pupils have been working hard and have communicated regularly. However, for many less well-motivated pupils homeschooling has been a disaster for a number of reasons. They may have limited access to a computer, if at all, they may not have the support of parents, they may not have the skills to be independent learners – to list but a few reasons.
"I am concerned that the teaching unions will now put every obstacle in the way of a return to school. It is time to get our children back into the classroom before even more damage is done.
"I am more than prepared to return to the classroom and take my part in managing cleanliness and social distancing to further the education of my pupils.
"Our children are the future and we must do all that we can to secure it."
'Schools and children are not equipped for social distancing'
"I’m a teacher and it seems teachers and children are being thrown under the bus! Schools and children are not equipped for social distancing. Every year the flu is spread like wildfire through kids and on this occasion the virus is even more contagious.
"Teachers are ultimately the most in danger and many of us have families too. Do we not matter? It seems there is a contingent of the public who are using the childcare nature of schooling just to get back to work themselves. Inevitably there will be children and young people along with their teacher counterparts that will contract Covid-19, which will rightly cause outrage unfortunately after it’s too late for them.
"One single child would require at least a ten square metre distance and that’s without children’s inability to stop touching their faces and touching one another or passing things around the class spreading the virus.
"To me it’s too soon and without antibody testing I really cannot see it working before there are real repercussions."
'They should start with the older years and work their way downwards'
"Schools should reopen soon. However, five and six-year-olds need physical contact in a way that older children don't and shouldn't be forced to observe social distancing, especially as they will catch up easily enough anyway.
"They should start with the older years and work their way downwards. Access to care for vulnerable children needs to be open constantly, and speaking as a teacher, they are often the most behind academically, they can be helped to catch up while numbers are low. As a supply teacher I would be very happy to tutor them one-to-one or in small groups and I can't see why anyone else shouldn't.
"This arrangement will make it easier to catch up when all children go back and could make a vast difference to the prospects of those vulnerable children, as I know from personal experience."
'Returning to school could do more to harm children's mental wellbeing than staying at home'
"I work in an early years setting and my wife is a primary school teacher in Reception. We also have a six-year-old in Year 1 and a four-month-old baby.
"Our child’s school recently sent the parents at the school a short questionnaire with the aim of understanding how many children the setting would need to provide provision for. We will not under any circumstance be sending our child back on June 1. We will wait until September at the earliest but even then only if it is safe.
"The government not only has the united force of teachers' unions against them but also the British Medical Association and many local council leaders all cautioning that June 1 is simply too soon. From my experience, our pre-school setting has had very low interest in readmission with around nine children wanting to return from over 60. Our parents Facebook group for Year 1 only has five children out of 28 wanting to return.
"Parents shouldn’t be faced with this dilemma of whether school is a safe place for their children."
"I strongly believe based on the government's handling of this situation and given the clear risks in a second spike in cases in addition to the BMA, teachers' unions and local authorities all being opposed to this arbitrary date, schools should be told to prepare for a September return."
"I would urge the government to follow Italy, Ireland and Spain on this, as it would still enable the economy to gradually reopen as parents will then have the certainty and be able to plan accordingly – enlisting friends and family members who can help with childcare, for instance, while people slowly return to work. After seeing many images of children in other countries being made to sit two-metres apart in boxes spray painted onto the playground, returning to school in that limited and alien environment could do more harm to children’s mental wellbeing than staying at home."
'Let's get the students back in school'
"I'm a teacher. We've done our best to provide what we can online. It is a poor substitute.
"Let's get the students back in school. It won't be perfect but we should do our best.
"We should take the protections we can but the profession cannot hide away at the expense of the education of those we are paid to teach."