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Return to class or not? Parents divided on re-opening schools

378 children across Camden returned to school

05 June, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Schools chief Angela Mason

PARENTS are split over whether to send their children back to school after the government asked some pupils to return to class on Monday.

Schools have remained open during the coronavirus lockdown for children of key workers and those considered vulnerable but this week marks the phased return of other year groups: Reception, Year 1 and Year 6. Some are staggering drop-offs, pick-ups and playtimes while reorganising classrooms and stopping assemblies to meet social distancing requirements.

Others, including Rhyl and Carlton primaries in Gospel Oak, are delaying their opening date until next week to make extra preparations.

By Tuesday, 31 of Camden’s 41 primary schools had reopened in some form to children whose parents were not key workers or considered vulnerable. Figures showed that 378 children had returned. Families are not being fined if they decide not to.

Ravea Khatun, parent at Edith Neville Primary School, has chosen to keep her five-year-old at home this week.

“I don’t feel young children at that age can keep to the rules of social distancing,” she said.

“I think for the government to say you can go outside and meet six people but they expect young children to be in classroom bulks of 15 doesn’t make sense. For older children perhaps but to expect younger children it doesn’t make sense.”

Ravea Khatun made the decision not to send her son back to school

“Bubble” classes of 15 children at a time will be taught, many on a half-day basis.

Camden has said that PPE (personal protective equipment) is available but will not be worn routinely all day.

Ms Khatun said: “For me, it is not about my children getting ill, it is more about passing that on to others who have health conditions. It is about keeping everyone safe. I know our school is really good at keeping safe. They have been fantastic and understanding of keeping parents involved. I know they are working hard around the clock but I do worry about staff having to make their way to work.”

Secondary schools are now working towards a return on June 15 for pupils who have exams next year.

The Unison union had demanded a delay to the return date, while the National Education Union said it is in regular contact with the council and schools over how pupils and staff would be kept safe.

But Fran Bury, a parent at Brookfield Primary, said her daughter was “excited” about going back to school this week, saying: “She has missed the social side of having other children around but is also missing the structure and achievement of being at school.”

She added:  “It was only when we were asked to teach at home that we realised we don’t know how to teach. It is just very new to us and left us with the feeling that we were doing an inferior job to what she would be receiving at school.”

Fran Bury: It was only when we were asked to teach at home that we realised we don’t know how to teach

Parents have welcomed the curriculum at Brookfield Primary being changed to allow more time outdoors with the children as a way to help social distancing.

Ms Bury said: “The school has been brilliant not putting pressure on us submitting stuff throughout the week. I have appreciated the way the school have been and the work they have been doing. Ever since we have joined the school we have been so impressed with the commitment, enthusiasm, creativity and also the amazing nurturing environment they have created.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said plans to return to school are based on “scientific and medical advice,” adding: “We want children back in schools as soon as possible because being with their teachers and friends is so important for their education and their wellbeing.”

Council education chief Labour councillor Angela Mason said: “It is our duty to fully support headteachers and governing bodies to ensure they are able to put comprehensive safety measures in place, which will allow a gradual return to school in a safe and sustainable way.”

‘One in five union members extremely anxious’

THE National Education Union said one in five of their members in schools across independent and state schools in the borough felt “extremely anxious” about the return to school compared with a third in a survey held six weeks ago.

Gerald Clark from Camden NEU said: “Most of our schools haven’t actually had pupils in much before today [Wednesday] so it’s a bit difficult to give a sense of how it’s gone, but feelings of our members are mixed. “There is obviously some anxiety about returning to school, but there is also a degree of positivity about being in a classroom with pupils – which is the key thing that teachers enjoy about their job.”



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