Education news

Parents overwhelmingly opposed to immediate school return post-lockdown

NASUWT General Secretary Patrick Roach said the suggestion of an arbitrary date for the reopening of schools was "wholly premature"

PARENTS are overwhelmingly opposed to sending their children back to school immediately after the lockdown is lifted, a survey has found.

Schools have been open only to children of key workers and vulnerable pupils for the past seven weeks.

There is no date for a return to normal teaching and learning.

However, results from a survey of more than 250,000 people by education charity Parentkind revealed that 90 per cent did not want an immediate return.

One in 10 said they would be happy to wait until staff and pupils had been vaccinated, even if this took up to 18 months.

The findings were published as a teaching union leader appealed to education minister Peter Weir to rule out any return before September.

NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach said the suggestion of an arbitrary date for the reopening of schools was "wholly premature".

Parentkind said its survey results gave a tangible snapshot of parents' experiences of school closures and their concerns for the disruption to family life and children's learning.

When asked when they would be happy for their children to return, one quarter said September.

A further 25 and 19 per cent respectively said only when government or school leaders said it was safe.

Only 10 per cent said they would be content to send children back as soon as the lockdown ended.

Parentkind CEO John Jolly said parents were desperately seeking clarity about what measures would be put in place to ensure their child's education did not suffer long-term, and how the mental health implications for young people would be addressed.

"The weight of our research and the strength of parent voice is a call to action for UK governments to listen to parents when it comes to reopening schools, phasing children back into classrooms, and minimising the disruption to home life and the education of children," he said.

Meanwhile, in his letter to Mr Weir, Dr Roche said any decision should be only made on the basis of robust scientific evidence.

Parents and pupils must also have time to prepare, he said.

"It has become increasingly clear, especially in the absence of clarity, that the suggestion by some of an arbitrary date (eg 1 June) for the reopening of schools is wholly premature. With the highest Covid-19 mortality rates in Europe, it is clear that government must continue to adopt an extremely cautious approach which does not contribute to further deaths and a further intensive wave of spread of the virus," Dr Roach said.

"The NASUWT is firmly of the view that changing the current restrictions on the opening of schools would be highly premature and extremely damaging.

"Schools must be reopened only when it is safe to do so. In view of the continued and pressing public health challenges and the considerable task that will be required to ensure that every school is ready to admit increased numbers of children and adults into safe learning and working environments, the NASUWT urges you to act to end speculation on the reopening of schools beyond the current restrictions prior to September 2020."

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