Cummings saga reaction from parents will mean empty classrooms at school on Monday

Social distancing measures as a child studies on a marked table at school. Rachel Moore says since t

Social distancing measures as a child studies on a marked table at school. Rachel Moore says since the Dominic Cummings saga, parents will now simply do what they feel with regard to sending children back to school and not follow official guidelines - Credit: PA

If it’s one rule for Dominic Cummings and one for us, says Rachel Moore, then parents will just do what they feel with regards to sending children back to school

When the trust goes in any relationship, things can only move one way.

Trust is fundamental, never more so than when it comes to safety.

Parents are being encouraged to entrust their small children’s wellbeing, and that of their wider family, to schools in four days’ time.

Teachers charged with keeping them safe have to trust the government advice they are given.

If parents were a bit wobbly before - apparently split about 50/50 about whether or not to send their four, five, six, 10 and 11-year-olds back to the classroom - the last week must have made their minds up to keep them away and within their sight.

A coach and horses has been driven through any trust in the advice we’ve been slavishly following for nearly 10 weeks.

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Like lemmings, we followed the advice to stay at home, not for our personal safety or risk, but for the greater good to protect the community because “we’re all in this together.”

Rather, we were, they weren’t.

Have we been fools to follow the government’s stay at home advice by trusting that they are telling us what is best? Have we all wasted our time, locked down filled with worry, fearful of venturing anywhere, watching our economy crumble and jobs lost across sectors?

If we can take one thing from this week’s shameful murky Cummingsgate affair is that we now have no idea what is right or wrong in the current crisis and have no idea who does.

Following on logically, this means we all now have to follow our own instincts, just like Mr Cummings and his wife claimed to, and do what we believe will keep our children safe in a world of unknowns.

So, expect classrooms to be empty next week.

The issue that has smashed trust isn’t so much about one man breaking rules. It is the prime minister and the cabinet backing the reckless actions of a blatant rule breaker for doing what he believed was right at the time, for his family. Translated into ‘plebspeak’ for the rest of us means that everyone who has obediently followed their rules since March 23 should feel like complete idiots.

Worse than that, people have sat at home wracked with anxiety believing it was the right altruistic thing to do.

What would have happened if we had all followed our instincts in difficult situations back in April at the pandemic’s peak here and broken the rules?

Oh, we know. Those people are still being fined, unlike Mr Cummings, for making lockdown-breaking decisions for exactly the same childcare reasons, other not so important people with a fraction of the wealth, advantages and contacts of Mr Cummings.

On Tuesday, hours after a vicar was told by our health secretary on live television that the government would look into reviewing the cases of all those people fined for doing just what the prime minister’s special advisor did, the government said they would not be reviewed.

If that’s not rock-solid confirmation that there is, in 2020 Britain, one rule for the elite and the other for us plebs, what is?

To rub salt into the raw wounds of so many grieving families, and everyone who has played by the rules, at a cost of health, relationships, businesses and more, our leaders plead the human story of why a father drove 260 miles in his Range Rover from the London hotspot of the disease to his elderly vulnerable parents’ farm in County Durham, where rates were low, and take a day trip in his wife’s birthday on Easter Sunday to a beauty spot of Barnard Castle, to test his eyesight, obvs.

Don’t travel, we were told, to avoid pressure on the NHS or to spread the disease. Mr Cummings and his family took their four-year-old son to hospital in Durham,

The country has been betrayed, and after betrayal there is never a way back, like the dishonest actions of a friend or husband. The damage is done.

And this is just the start. There is worse to come. The government is still struggling to set up a reliable track and trace system and facing the task of lifting us out of a massive recession with a country feels on its knees crushed by fear.

The Cummings crisis and sending children back to school are inextricably linked by trust and parental instinct.

Whose advice and guidance can you trust, and how far do you go now to keep your children safe?

Until Cummingsgate, there was brewing a parent-against-parent friction. Both camps - pro and anti-school - claimed the moral high ground. Who cared most mattered. Some won’t send their children back to school until a vaccine is found.

But who cares most has been quashed by the government pulling the rug from under their feet and casting doubt about any advice, guidance and safety steps it offers.

First chink in its armour, is why bring back small children to school rather than high school students?

Small children will thrive at home with their parents, but young people need the stimulus of social interaction and learning, getting ready for exams.

If young people can grab a takeaway, a McDonalds drive-thru and stock up in Primark, they can go to school.