Eli, 7, preparing for school return after more than a year

Emma and Chris Taylor with their children Eli, (seven), front, who has Down's syndrome, and Logan, 12.

Emma and Chris Taylor with their children Eli, (seven), front, who has Down's syndrome, and Logan, 12. - Credit: Emma Taylor

A seven-year-old Norfolk boy who has spent months shielding due to his genetic disorder is preparing to return to school next week.

Eli Taylor, who has Down's syndrome, will be one of thousands of youngsters across Norfolk and Waveney returning to the classroom for the new term.

Headteachers have been putting measures in place to keep youngsters safe, amid fears of a rise in coronavirus cases.

For the Old Catton pupil, it will be the first time he has been back in more than a year.

His mum, Emma Taylor, 40, said she understands the need for Eli and her other 12-year-old son to go back, but remains very cautious. 

The deputy manager of Old Catton Pre-School is nervous because schools have been asked to arrange their own Covid mitigation measures.

She added that clinically extremely vulnerable children have been "left out in the cold" because they no longer need to shield.

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Mrs Taylor said: "We are anxious. It feels like we are sending our children into the unknown.

"We, as a country, seem to have thrown caution to the wind. 

"I feel very sorry for schools. Parents expect us to have the answers and know what is going on but we don't. 

"Schools should reopen but the school environment is not for everybody and there should be freedom of choice."

She added schools were working hard to keep people safe but the framework of Covid mitigation measures should be more stringent.

"At the moment each school can do what they deem to be fit," Mrs Taylor said.

Scott Lyons, Norfolk joint division secretary National Education Union, said school staff had been "working round the clock" to make schools safe.

But he added: "The government has left a massive vacuum and they expect schools to fill that. The advice I would give to parents is talk to headteachers."

There are lots of regimes in place already to prevent the spread of Covid in schools, including cleaning, ventilation advice and testing, according to Public Health England (PHE).

Dr Yvonne Doyle, PHE's medical director, said: "We understand that parents may be nervous but I would stress that schools are not the drivers and not the hubs of infection."

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