Parents' views on primary school reopening 'limbo'

Nichol Nicholls and her daughter, Emily.

Nicol Nicholls and her daughter, Emily. - Credit: Submitted

With the news that primary schools will be supported by the county council if they decide they cannot reopen safely, many parents are still anxiously awaiting news of whether their schools will be open as normal tomorrow. 

Nicol Nicholls, whose eight-year-old daughter Emily has a genetic disorder so rare it has not yet been named, said that she would be keeping her daughter at home for at least the next week.

Ms Nicholls, of Bowthorpe, near Norwich, said it was a decision her family had made “between ourselves” and she was willing to risk a fine if necessary.

“With the new variant and the numbers being higher than they’ve ever been for Norfolk, we are worried about her,” said Ms Nicholls, who wants the government to close schools until the impact of the Christmas mixing is established.

She added: “As much as they say there’s no evidence that it [going to school] will cause her harm, there’s no evidence to say it won’t… If they could show me a child with the same medical history who’d had Covid and was fine, I’d be more inclined to believe it.”

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Amy Louise Parkins, who lives in Blofield with her primary school-aged daughter, called the government’s plan to send children back “bonkers” and “another wooly decision that is going to prolong the impact of Covid and keep us in the never ending cycle of half measures”. 

“We need a strict lockdown, shut the schools, catch up with the vaccine programme and then reassess the situation,” said Ms Parkins, who underwent breast cancer surgery during the week.

Amy Louise Parkin and her daughter

Amy Louise Parkin and her daughter - Credit: Submitted

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She added: “Sending my daughter to school when I’m shielding is a challenge in itself. This new variant has thrown a whole new spanner into the works though, and whilst I 100% agree that school is best for mental health, we need to lockdown now with school closures to try and regain control of the spread.” 

Ms Parkins said that she had seen the “horrific” conditions NHS staff were working under, and that “keeping schools open as they were before Christmas is only going to add fuel to the fire”.

Claire Allen-Baxter, who lives in Gorleston, said on Saturday that she was “frankly shocked” at the government’s decision to keep schools open - and was on Sunday waiting to hear if her child’s would in fact be closed. 

Ms Allen-Baxter, who has two children - one at primary and one at secondary, said: “I’m in a position, as a lot of parents are, where I’ve got an older child at secondary school, who’s not going back on Monday, and then I’ve got a younger child at primary school, that I’m expected to send in.”

“If it’s not safe for the older one to go back, then why am I expected to send the younger one in?”

She added: “If we’re in Tier 4, the schools should be closed, because they’ve said in London that their schools are all closing, and they’re in Tier 4, so if that’s the rule for London, then that should be the rule for us as well.”

Ms Allen-Baxter said she was not yet sure if she would be sending her child into school, particularly given that she works in a care home.

“I can’t afford for my son to bring the virus home from school, and then I potentially take it into work,” she said.

Other parents continue to support the idea of children returning to the classroom. 

Milena, a mother in Norwich with two primary school-aged children, who did not wish to be fully named, said that organising childcare at such short notice would be challenging and that “constant isolation will not provide them with what the school environment and contact with their peers do”. 

On Sunday afternoon she received the news that her daughter’s school would be closed on Monday, with the rest of the week uncertain.

“The experience of the last year has shown that decisions are made overnight and for an indefinite period of time,” said Milena.

She added: “Personally, I am dissatisfied with this decision. It seems to me that it was taken under pressure, quickly, without any deeper analysis.”

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