As a Secondary school Teacher and mother to an Alpha 1 child I have been following the news about the reopening of schools and have been really concerned about the decision to open in June. Our son will be asked to return as he is in year 6. I do not feel that opening schools in June is the right thing to do. I am not alone in this. I belong to the largest teaching union NEU who are fighting to only open schools when it is safe to do so. Which they believe is not yet. At present the majority of teaching and headteachers unions are in agreement and yesterday the BMA (British Medical association) also lent their support to the unions. Sadly, I do not think any of this will make a difference. I fear schools will be opened and reception, year 1 and 6 will be asked to return. There has not been any date for secondary schools to reopen but they have suggested year 10 and 12 will have some form of contact with their subject teachers before the summer break. What this will entail has not been set out and no information about other years groups have not been released. So as yet we do not have any information on secondary schools reopening. The government have now said that if parents choose to keep their children off school they will not be fined.
We have spent many hours talking about this very situation and what would be best for our family. We have been very fortunate that our children’s school is very supportive and asked us to keep the children home a week before lock-down started as the head feared for their safety. Because of this we have made the decision to consult the head teacher over the safety of allowing our son to return to school. She will have a clearer idea of the measure she is able to put in place and if she feels she can keep our son safe. But I am aware not all schools are as fortunate to have a head teacher who understands the situation over Alpha 1.
As to having any insight into the current situation from a professional perspective, sadly I have none. Teachers and head teachers are not being given guidance or information on covid and how schools should look when they reopen. We only heard about the opening along with the rest of the country in the press conference. There has been no consultation with staff or unions about how to conduct social distancing or protecting children, staff and families. Although the government claim they have consulted unions and have their backing. The government claim that the chance of transmission is limited but the data is contradictory. Denmark is being used as a model for the way we open our schools, but their mortality rate is significantly lower and once they reopened schools their R rate increased. A week after schools reopened in France fifty have been forced to shut again due to cases, or suspected cases of covid19.
So what does this really mean for parents of Alpha children. The simple answer is, we do not know. We do not know how this could affect our children and sadly the medical professions do not either. They assume they will be fine. But even now more information is being learnt about the longer-term effects of Covid-19. I fear it will take years before we really understand the impact this has had on those who have contracted it
So my advice to you is simple. You need to use your judgement. To call the school and ask about the measures being put in place and whether they think they can keep them safe. If you need to, consult your specialist and get their advice. Let’s be honest younger children cannot do social distancing and there is always a risk of contracting this.
The latest update from the Government about schools reopening is that the government will be closely monitoring the impact of this week’s loosening of restrictions on the R rating and overall count before deciding on further measures. So this should mean that if the R rate is still high that they will delay the opening of schools to primary years.
We as a charity cannot advise you on what is the best form of action for your family as we would not give you medical advice. We cannot advise you to keep your children at home or send them to school. All we can do is give you this personal perspective. To ask you to use your own judgement on what is best for you and your family. All we want is for everyone to stay safe in these unprecedented times.
Emma Wooler – 18th May 2020