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Children could lose school place if parents don't practice social distancing at gates

17 August 2020, 10:05 | Updated: 17 August 2020, 11:09

Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

Children in England are being threatened with exclusion if they - or their parents - don’t follow the school’s Covid guidelines.

As schools get ready to reopen to all pupils in September, some parents are worried their children face harsh punishments for breaking the new restrictions.

In one case, parents were told if they were seen breaching social distancing, then their child would lose their school space.

Mounts Bay Academy is secondary school near Penzance. Last month, the headteacher wrote to parents warning that any student caught not following the Covid guidelines in September will be sent home immediately.

As punishment, they'll have to spend the next day in what they're calling a ‘reset zone’ - in a form of solitary confinement, a day in silence working 2 metres apart from anyone else.

But if they break the rules again, they get excluded.

David, one of the parents, labelled it "horrific", telling LBC: "Every school is meant to provide an education to your children and this two strikes and you're out exclusion is horrific

Waterbeach Community School have told parents that children could be removed if parents break Covid guidelines
Waterbeach Community School have told parents that children could be removed if parents break Covid guidelines. Picture: PA / Google Street View

But it's not just this school, nor just the students' behaviour, that's getting policed.

A Primary school near Cambridge, Waterbeach Community School, told parents that even their behaviour during pick up and drop off times was being watched.

An email to parents in June read: "It has come to my attention that there are people gathering on site at the beginning and end of the school day.

"Please be aware that as advised by county, I will be removing the place for any child who staff report to be observing social distancing guidance. This will be with immediate effect."

The email sent to Waterbeach Community School parents
The email sent to Waterbeach Community School parents. Picture: LBC

One mum told LBC: "It was quite an aggressive email advising that if parents were seen as a parent taking to other parents or congregating, then your child would then lose their school place."

Government guidance recently changed to give headteachers this power, but say permanent exclusion should "only be used as a last resort."

Meanwhile, a University of Oxford study has warned there could be a rise in exclusions, worrying that schools will become far less tolerant of students who refuse to follow instructions. That is especially the case for youngsters with conditions that mean they'll struggle to obey social distancing or working in ‘bubbles’.

Mounts Bay school in Penzance has a new Covid policy
Mounts Bay school in Penzance has a new Covid policy. Picture: Google Street View

Regarding Waterbeach Community School, a Cambridgeshire County Council spokesperson said: “The majority of our schools in Cambridgeshire remained open throughout the lockdown period, to accommodate vulnerable children and those of key workers.

"As advised by government, our schools applied the social bubble system to ensure those children and staff in attendance were kept safe, and the risk of spreading infection was minimised. We asked that parents of those children in attendance remembered to adhere to social distancing rules outside of school, for themselves and their children, as per general government guidance.”

“The number one priority for all of our schools is, as always will be, to maintain and ensure the safety and protection of our children.

"With this in mind we informed parents that their children would not be accepted into school, temporarily, if the parents were known to have contravened government safety and social distancing guidance. This was to ensure the safety of those other children and staff who were in school and adhering to the social bubble system. Where we felt parents had contravened the rules we would work with them, to avoid any position where permanent exclusion was ever considered. Our priority will always be to keep children in schools, safely.”

Cornwall Council, where Mounts Bay is based, said: "The safety of our staff and students is our key priority, therefore many schools have adapted their behaviour policies to reflect the impact of Covid-19.  I would urge any parents with concerns to talk with the school, who can offer greater clarification."

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