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‘Unworkable’, ‘confusing and upsetting’: Parents react to school return plans

PUBLISHED: 14:57 11 May 2020 | UPDATED: 14:59 11 May 2020

Young children could start returning to nurseries in from June 1, with the aim for all primary school pupils to go back for a month before summer. Picture: Simon Lee Photography

Young children could start returning to nurseries in from June 1, with the aim for all primary school pupils to go back for a month before summer. Picture: Simon Lee Photography

Archant

Young children could start returning to nurseries in from June 1, with the aim for all primary school pupils to go back for a month before summer.

Schools have been closed except for vulnerable and key worker children since March 23. Picture: Tim Goode/PA WireSchools have been closed except for vulnerable and key worker children since March 23. Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire

The Government expects pre-school children to be able to return to early years settings, and for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils to be back in school in “smaller sizes”, from the start of next month.

It aims to ensure that the youngest children, and those preparing for secondary school, have “maximum time with their teachers”.

The plans drew a mixed reaction from Norfolk parents who questioned how it would work and how such young children could be socially distanced.

Gareth Dawson, from Costessey, whose daughter Yvaine is in Year 1, said: “How can you get children of her age to social distance, they have no idea how to judge two-metres.

“There is not enough room in classrooms to have that kind of separation and I don’t know about other children but the first thing my little girl will do as soon as she sees her best friend is she is going to run up to her and hug her, no matter what she is told.

“I’m also betting that Boris Johnson hasn’t taken any time to think about drop off and pick up times. As much as parents will try, they can’t maintain social distancing in the school grounds or when trying to leave the school through the gates. It’s just not realistic.”

Children of key-workers comply with social distancing rules while attending school. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA WireChildren of key-workers comply with social distancing rules while attending school. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

MORE: Can I see my family? All you need to know about the new lockdown rules

Laura Woods, who has a reception age child and another who should be starting in September, also expressed concerns about the plans.

“It’s a huge task and responsibility for a school and teachers and how is social distancing going to be adhered to,” she said.

“It’s going to be really difficult to even teach effectively if the teachers are constantly having to keep children apart with the size of classes and the way classrooms are set out.

Rainbow painted on playground at Sheringham Community Primary School by the children of local critical care workers. More pupils should soon be returning. Picture: Chris Taylor/christaylorphoto.co.ukRainbow painted on playground at Sheringham Community Primary School by the children of local critical care workers. More pupils should soon be returning. Picture: Chris Taylor/christaylorphoto.co.uk

“Is anything actually going to be achieved in the classrooms anyway with all the changes that will have to be put into place to keep children apart, a big thing for reception age children is ‘learning through play’, so will they now be expected to sit alone and play?”

Gemma Bloom, from Cantley, who has worked in education for 13 years, teaching reception and Year 1 children, and now managing a children’s nursery, said: “How many four-year olds have you seen playing two-metres apart from their friends?

“How confusing and upsetting for our littlest children, you have to leave your home where most have been happy and loved, leave your family, attend school, stay physically apart from your friends and trusted adults, and adults who are no doubt visibly concerned and worried. That sounds dreadful.”

Ms Bloom, whose own daughter is in Year 6, added: “What about the siblings of children in those year groups? What a strange and confusing message for them, your sister has to go to school but you must stay home.

“What is the proposed plan for a single parent with two children, one in Year 1, one in Year 3? What about staffing? Lots of teachers are also parents.”

MORE: Schools could turn into ‘Covid swamps’ if June 1 opening goes ahead, Norfolk union warns

However Georgina Chapple, from Alysham, said: “Personally I think it’s perfectly acceptable. My daughter is in reception class and has been attending throughout lockdown, and is more than happy doing so. She’s thriving in terms of social development and flying academically.

New pupils at St Andrew's Primary School, North Lopham, in 2017. Parents have questioned how such young children can be effectively social distanced. Picture: Steve AdamsNew pupils at St Andrew's Primary School, North Lopham, in 2017. Parents have questioned how such young children can be effectively social distanced. Picture: Steve Adams

“I’m currently going through chemotherapy treatment so considered extremely vulnerable but with the lower rates in Norfolk her happiness and wellbeing are top of our family’s priority list. “Also when I’m having my bad days, knowing that she’s elsewhere having fun while my husband gets some rest is so important for all our mental health.”

Year 6 children have been earmarked for a return as they are set to leave primary for secondary schools in September.

Louise Gawe, whose son is in Year 6 in Hellesdon, said she had mixed feelings about his possible return to the classroom.

She said: “His Year 6 SATs exams have been cancelled and my understanding is that the majority of the curriculum has been taught prior to these exams.

“I feel it is incredibly important that Year 6 children are afforded the opportunity to have some kind of ‘closure’ and ‘transitional preparation’ time, if it is safe to do so, ahead of high school. However, I would argue that this could be done without returning to school for six weeks.

“I would prefer to see a plan that outlines a timetable on an individual basis - with very small groups or perhaps individual morning or afternoon sessions scheduled to afford children some focused or 1:1 time in school with their teaching staff.”

MORE: Nearly quarter of parents ‘have not done any home education’ amid lockdown

Charlotte Leedham, from Hethersett, whose daughter attends Cringleford Primary School, said: “Whilst it would be wonderful for Year 6 pupils to have an opportunity to find closure on their time at primary school and hopefully be supported in their transition to high school, I can’t help but feel a real concern at the impact this may have on those great many families with vulnerable members.

“Come June, if schools reopen, I am faced with the difficult decision of either sending my daughter to school to allow her the preparation she needs for this next important step in her life, but increasing the risk of exposing my vulnerable son to coronavirus. It’s not going to be an easy decision for any parent to make.

“I would like to see proper guidance on this, schools be fully supported in the provision of social distancing measures PPE where appropriate, before I put my daughter, and the rest of our family at risk.”

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