Today we received the email we had been waiting for from our daughter’s school, setting out their specific plans for returning children. Year 6 and Year 1 only (which includes our daughter) will be returning from Tuesday 2nd June. I had honestly expected they would start with Year 6 only and build up from there, so was a little surprised, and now we have a decision to make.
On the side of my daughter going back to school, she wants to go, even knowing that it will be very different from before. She will be able to see her friends who she has been missing. She will be getting a better education (we have done a decent job in the circumstances, but it is tough to teach her whilst also looking after a two year old). If we don’t send her back until September she will have not been in school for nearly six months, which is a very long time for a kid to be off, it will be all the more difficult for her to settle back in (and there is no guarantee things will be back to normal by then).
Children also seem to be less likely to catch the virus, the symptoms tend to be less severe if they do catch it, and most of the evidence suggests that they are less likely to transmit it. The number of new cases of coronavirus in the UK is dropping pretty rapidly day by day now (and our city of Leeds is not a particular hotspot – it’s about average for the country). Schools have been open in any case for children of key workers, without there being significant outbreaks. Overall the risk seems very, very low.
On the other hand, it is still a risk, even if tiny. Would it be better to wait until September until the number of cases drops (hopefully) even further? When track and trace is introduced and embedded? Whilst some countries have re-opened schools already, they are countries where the virus was kept relatively under control in the first place. Comparable countries such as Spain and Italy are not re-opening until September. I have a lot of confidence in our daughter’s school doing the best by the children, but it will still be a strange experience with all the new rules and restrictions (although someone we know who works in a school says that the key worker children have been managing absolutely fine despite the strange circumstances).
It’s a tough decision any way you look at it. I know some parents who are absolutely delighted for their children to be returning to school. I know others who are in no way ready for their children to return. One good thing is that, whichever decision we make, we can change our mind at any point (with the caveat that our school has requested that any children returning part way through term should join at the start of the week).
A similar decision awaits for our two year old son and his nursery, with many of the same issues, although there is the advantage that the nursery is open throughout the summer, so we have more options than either returning him in June or waiting until September. The added complication being that he was due to move to nursery school in September, a big upheaval for any child, but presumably especially so after recently going through a many month absence from nursery.
Ultimately, like all the other parents in the same situation, we will look at the data, the guidance, any other information we have, and make the decision that we think is best for our kids. Never expected to be making these particular decisions though.