School’s Out For Summer
Are our children in for a long hot summer? With schools shut, other than for key workers children, the government are looking for a phased reopening for English schools. Is this the right time? Homeschooling has been a challenge for many parents especially where they are working. But risks still remain, we may be on a downward slope with the virus at the moment but that could easily change.
It is important to remember that it is only primary schools that are opening on 1 June. Then it will only be reception, year one and year six. Secondary schools will reopen from 15 June but only years 10 and 12., and only when the schools consider it safe to do so. Other year groups will follow but there is no time scale yet. Gavin Williamson has said that the government realise there will be an initial nervousness about the return to school. He has also made it clear that there will be no penalties for parents who decide to keep their children at home. This means that if as a parent you have concerns about the readiness of your school or any safety aspects, you will be able to continue to homeschool your children. It is probably worthy of note that if schools are open you may now need to be able to show that you are actively homeschooling rather than just keeping your children at home. At this stage there will be no fines or penalties. The safety of our children must remain paramount.
Whilst the government are hoping parents will send their children back to school parents may need to rely on their instincts rather than official guidance. The Government have given no indication of any sanctions for schools that decide not to reopen. It is for the individual school to decide whether it has a safe enough environment to have children back into school. Due to the different size and shape of many schools and classrooms the school must be satisfied they can have the children being taught in the safest socially distanced environment. Local authorities are indicating many of their schools will not be ready by 1 June and therefore may not open. This will not be a blanket opening and the individual schools will have to ensure they are ready.
It is a difficult situation for individual teachers as to whether they go back to work. If they are not happy with the safety measures the school has in place they should question this. If feel they should continue to socially isolate it must be a matter for them especially if they are in a vulnerable category.
Until such time as there is a vaccination schools will inevitably run in a very different manner. Many school buildings are not designed for pupils sitting 2 m apart and there are going to be major challenges for schools to tackle if they want to get all their pupils back in to class. The average size classroom which designed to hold 30 will hold less than half of that on a socially distanced basis. Where are schools expected to get the extra space from? Teaching in the gym, library, school hall? We will all have to adapt to a new normal.
Have the government made a poor decision here? As the situation is gradually improving surely it would have been more sensible to send children back to school in August thus giving a shorter summer holiday. If the easing of lockdown including sending children back to school from June causes a second spike the next school year could begin with another full lockdown. It is unhelpful that all parts of the union do not have a united approach to the schools reopening.
How are parents to decide who is right if Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and England are all following different paths? In conclusion parents must do what they think is in the best interest of their children taking into account all the risks. Speak to your school, what have they done to minimise the risk? What is the infection rate in your area? Ask the questions to ensure you make an informed decision.