As the nation’s children prepare for an autumn term like no other, there are still some concerns shared by parents ahead of their children heading back to the classroom.
The Council has been working in collaboration with our local schools, the Government and Transport for London (TfL) to ensure that the safety of pupils and staff is prioritised.
Bi-borough Director of Children’s Services, Sarah Newman, said: “We all know children are resilient and can adapt with a swiftness many adults struggle to achieve. We will use every part of our system to listen, respond and ultimately to work together to support our children being safe, healthy and being able to learn – at school.” You can hear more from Sarah Newman in her recent blog post for Children and Young People Now.
So, what are the biggest concerns shared by parents, and what is being done to address them?
I’m worried the virus will spread around the school and be brought into my home.
Schools have been working tirelessly to make sure classrooms, playgrounds, halls and canteens are set up so children and teachers can observe social distancing.
Children will have hand-washing breaks throughout the day and hand sanitiser stations have been installed throughout schools. Children should wash their hands as soon as they get home too.
Children and staff will be grouped into social bubbles, with the same people sticking together for the school year. If any adult or child within the bubble tests positive for Coronavirus, the entire group will self-isolate at home to limit the spread to others.
If there is an increase in cases locally, schools may recommend that children wear masks while in the classroom. This isn’t currently the case and schools affected by any such change will be sure to let parents and pupils know.
I’m worried about my child’s journey to school.
Around 250,000 school children use London's buses to get to and from school.
From 1 September until the end of October 2020, TfL are adding over 200 extra buses to the network. Everyone over 12 must wear a face mask on public transport, unless they have an exemption.
We want to encourage children to walk, cycle or scoot to school wherever possible to make space on public transport for children who do not have an active travel option.
We have new school streets around the borough, with seven new primary schools signed up to have a car free street at drop off and pick up times.
I don’t think the risk is worth it and could keep teaching my child from home.
The Government has stated that all pupils must return to return to school full-time in the September term and it is a parent’s legal duty to ensure their child has regular schooling. While teachers and parents have done a great job in ensuring learning continued while at home, classroom-based learning is vital for a child’s education and wellbeing.
The learning a child receives in the classroom, alongside the emotional support and social aspect of being surrounded by peers and educators in an educationally stimulating environment is unmatched. It is the best place for children to learn.
While more research is needed, we know that children are less susceptible to Coronavirus infection than adults. Research has consistently shown that there are far fewer cases of Coronavirus in children compared to adults, and that if children do contract the virus, they are generally found to have much less severe symptoms than adults.
I’m concerned about my child’s mental health – what if they don’t want to go back?
Lockdown has been tough on everyone, not least children who have had an unusual year of learning in what is usually a well-structured period of their lives.
Schools have been asked how they can provide emotional care and extra-curricular activities to all pupils. This will be designed to:
- support the rebuilding of friendships and social engagement
- equip pupils to respond to issues linked to Coronavirus
- support pupils with approaches to improving their physical and mental wellbeing.
Schools have also been asked to provide more focused emotional support for:
- individual pupils
- groups already known to need additional help
- any groups they identify as newly vulnerable on their return to school.
The Council is working with schools to ensure they are equipped with resources and contacts to refer children to should they want to reach out for mental health support. The ‘Knowing your mental health’ leaflet is being promoted on digital screens around the borough and sent to schools so pupils can have physical copies.
We know this is a difficult time and that it’s completely normal to have apprehensions about sending your child back into the classroom. If you have any more queries about your or your child’s concerns, please contact their school directly to talk through these issues.