Angelina Leatherbarrow, a Romford mum, and Labour member, today writes in the Havering Daily about her worries sending her two young daughters back to school in June.
When the prime minister told the nation last week that by the 1st of June we would have limited reopening of schools for reception, year 1 and year 6, I like many parents experienced a mixture of feelings. Relief, this must mean its safe for our kids to go back and see their teachers and friends ( and I can give up on attempting to home school!) nervousness and worry about what feels like a very big leap back to some sense of normality.
I have a 4 year old in reception and a 7 year old in year 3. My 4 year old is missing school desperately, she loves her teachers and adores her friends. She is a cuddler. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is quick to give a hug, especially to a friend who is sad…or poorly.
My initial thoughts were that we would let her return to school in June, depending on what the measures being put it place to keep our kids and the staff safe. When we received the letter from the school, explaining what measures would be in place I quickly changed my mind.
Social distancing is impossible with this age group. The very thing that defines early learning is play, expression and activity. I worry that distancing being enforced would be emotionally damaging to many of the children who wouldn’tunderstand why cuddling a friend who has fallen over is now a bad thing.
Then there is the risk of the actual disease itself, and now we are hearing of a new complication affecting children. Ministers and MP’s will tell us that numbers affected are very low, but that is cold comfort to the parents of Alexander Parsons who died at the age of 18 months old or Scarlett Roberts, a five year old fighting for her life right now in Wakefield.
A teacher friend pointed out to me that the govt gains statutory data on schools at reception and yr 1. Maybe this is why they are so keen to get this age group back when in reality they are the easiest to home school, and the hardest to manage in a socially distancing environment. French schools started opening their doors last week. Many have since had to close again due to confirmed cases of the virus.
At the end of the day, the government hasn’t given me any reason to trust that they are putting the safety of our children above their desire to get us all back out working and spending. With their shambolic handling of the crisis at every step so far which has resulted in the highest death toll in Europe and the absolute scandal of how the elderly in care homes were fatally neglected, why would any of us think that they were getting right this time. They have said that it is because the impact of being away from school will damage their life chances in the future. What about their life chances right now. Our children can not be collateral damage in the fight against Corona virus. When private schools like Eton are not opening their doors till after the summer holidays, I’mgoing to need a very good reason as to why working class kids from Romford should.