Parents question how primary school children 'can be taught about social distancing'

11 May 2020, 12:46

Parents express concern over new plans to reopen primary schools

By Maddie Goodfellow

Parents have expressed their concern over primary pupils in England returning to school and how children can be taught about safe social distancing in schools.

It comes after the Prime Minister announced that primary pupils could return to school from 1 June "at the earliest" under new lockdown guidelines.

The Prime Minister said a phased reopening of schools would begin with pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, if infection rates and the government's other tests at the time allow it.

"At the earliest by June 1, after half term, we believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages," said Mr Johnson, in an address to the nation.

Most schools have been closed since 20 March.

However, parents have questioned the practicalities of this

Nathalie from Bicester told LBC News that she has two children, one of whom suffers from asthma and severe allergies.

She explained that she is really concerned about how it will work in practice.

Primary school children could return to school by June 1 at the earliest
Primary school children could return to school by June 1 at the earliest. Picture: PA

Nathalie told LBC News: "The ongoing question around whether schools will reopen soon has been a real worry for so many parents, including myself.

"It's been a real hot topic of conversation in our household, and it's also been a topic of conversation for many of my friends and the parents that I work with as well.

"Now, nothing has really changed since all of this started and lockdown commenced. There is still no cure and no vaccine so far. It's still a really dangerous situation for us all."

Questions have also been asked about whether children with health conditions will return to schools, with Mary Bousted, co-leader of the National Education Union saying infection rates were too high for it to be safe.

Nathalie stated: "My little boy has severe asthma and he also has multiple allergies. So it's not a simple case of sending him back when the schools open, even though he is in year three, and they're not the ones that are meant to go back yet."

Countries including Germany have already started reopening primary schools
Countries including Germany have already started reopening primary schools. Picture: PA

It comes as Paul Whiteman, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the government's announcement had not passed the "confidence test" with parents and teachers.

"It will all be in vain if many parents still decide to keep their children at home," he warned.

Nathalie agreed, stating: "So many questions have been raised as a result of today's information.

"How do you make reception and year one children understand about social distancing and how do you stop them playing together as well because it's a natural instinct. It's such a difficult situation to be in at the moment.

In countries which have already begun to reopen schools teachers have reported that social distancing has been extremely hard to enforce.

Coronavirus: Should children go back to school? Virologist explains to LBC

"It's hard enough as an adult, it's even harder when you're a child.

"Their routines have gone completely out the window, and the world as they know it has completely been turned upside down."

"So before we can really say anything and talk to our children about it, we really need some clear guidance about returning to school and the big changes that are going to come to what they used to know.

"Whatever plan is in place, it needs to be robust. It needs to protect our children, not just from a physical and health perspective, but also from a mental perspective as well."

Public need to be confident before sending children back to school

There has also been tension between the four nations of the UK over the decision.

In Wales, the First Minister Mark Drakeford has already ruled out following the same plan as England, stating: "We're not going to be reopening schools in Wales in the next three weeks, or indeed in June."

Then Scottish government has warned that fully reopening primary schools ran the risk of "overwhelming" the NHS.

Northern Ireland Education Minister Peter Weir has instead spoken of a possible phased return of schools in September.