I am not sure if I have had to make a tougher decision as a parent than whether to send my reception children back to school when they (possibly) reopen on the 1st June. Corona virus has changed so very much for all of us and for those of us who are parents perhaps the biggest change is suddenly having the children at home and becoming their teacher. So now after almost 3 months of schools being closed we, in the UK, are being asked to send our reception children back to school (year one and year six are also supposed to return). For those of you who aren’t in the UK education system reception children are aged 4 and 5. This is why I am not sending my reception children back to school – yet!
Just my opinion on reception children back to school
Before I start to explain why I am not sending my reception children back to school I do want to say that this is just my opinion and not in any way shape or form a comment on my children’s school in fact I think they are doing amazingly well in preparing and changing the way they work so that they can make this happen by the 1st June. I am sharing this with you because the process of deciding whether the kids should go back to school has genuinely taken up a lot of my brain power in the past week or so. This blog is about sharing what parenting is for us and how we are navigating parenting 4 children and so I feel it is important to talk about this too which is a huge parenting decision.
I, like many of you, have read as much as I can about the facts, but this is just my opinion and I recognise that my situation is different from other peoples and that many of you will have made a different decision.
I also am not writing this to attempt to sway your opinion or to hammer into political views etc… I totally respect every parents decision making. This is a tough one and you can only do what you feel is best. I feel the government has made mistakes when handling the covid 19 crisis and not acted swiftly enough, but this is not the purpose of the post so I will be largely staying away from that. I am just sharing how we feel about our reception children going back to school despite knowing that their school and teachers will do everything in their power to keep the kids safe and well.
Not an easy decision
As you will know, if you are a regular reader, we have twin girls. They have very recently turned 5 and so are in reception. The boys are in year 4 and year 2 so aren’t able to return to school yet anyway leaving us with a decision to make about our littlest littles.
If you had asked me a few weeks ago whether I would be sending my reception children back to school in June I would have instantly said ‘NO WAY!’ I wouldn’t have had a moment’s pause, but when it actually came to making the decision it was so hard. There is just so much to consider and so many facts to digest. In fact perhaps the toughest part is that we don’t enough about this virus to even have all the facts. The information sometimes seems conflicted and statements from organisations such as a the British Medical Association apparently questioning the government decision makes it even more overwhelming as a parent. Who should we believe?
I find it hard to fathom that anyone would condone sending children back to school if it were not safe and so I can only conclude that it would be safe, but then I don’t think it is and so my head starts to spin and I go round and round in circles trying to make the decision about whether to send my reception children back to school. I strongly believe that schools were closed too late in the UK (we took our children out two weeks earlier) so I struggle with the timing of this return to school. Ultimately we have decided ‘No’ for now at least and these are the reasons why.
Why we are not sending our reception children back to school yet
- They have only just got used to being at school – they only started in September and it has taken a while for them both to get used to it with one of the girls still often getting teary and the other having emotional outbursts at school so to start again and put them through that for just a few weeks before the summer holidays doesn’t seem like it will be good for them emotionally
- The boys will still be at home; practicality tells me that getting two little ones out the door whilst the other two are not required to be anywhere will be fairly impossible. I know that we may need to deal with this at some point as I guess even in September they may not all be able to be there at once, but there has been so must disruption for all of them I want to minimise it at the moment
- When I pulled the children out of school there were less than 10 cases of Covid-19 in my London Borough and right now there are almost 1000 so for me the numbers are still too high. We were also still tracking and tracing contacts within the UK then and now we are not. We want to wait until numbers come down and the track, trace and isolate programme is back up and running
- With the benefit of hindsight I think one of the twins was not ready for school and we should have given them an extra year at home to mature emotionally. I have noticed that she is happier at home and the relationship between the twins which has been quite complex at times since they started school has really progressed. Being at home means that I can focus on additional things with them that are perhaps not so relevant for singletons and so of course aren’t on the curriculum. We have been working on individuality and celebrating their successes as individuals. I think giving them more time at home to ‘grow up’ will only benefit their emotional intelligence
- With four kids at home there is always someone for them to play with, to learn from and to interact with. They are very lucky to still be able to develop their social skills as they are their own little tribe. This means that the girls are still learning about turn taking, sharing, group dynamics and relationship building. Of course it is not the same as being within larger social groups at school, but there are still social learning opportunities here. I think if I had an only child I would be more concerned about that aspect. There is no chance here of anyone becoming lonely here…
- I am not working (at least not for anyone else) so I am in a position to spend all day devoted to educating the kids. I am not going to pretend that it is easy, but the children are all doing lots of schoolwork and I see progress so I am confident that they are not going to slip behind their peers. With my reception children they spend much of the day at school learning through play so i believe we can do this at home as well. If I were trying to work all day and mind the children I am quite sure I may have felt differently.
- If I sent my reception children back to school everything would be different… They wouldn’t have their usual class teacher (or at least may not) and would only be with half of the class. The school have done an extraordinary job in transforming how the school operates so that children can return to school, but I know my little girls and one of them does not do well with change. For the sake of essentially a few weeks I am not sure it is worth sending my reception children back to school just to see them having to deal with all this change. If they return in September they will be in a new class anyway and I think it will be easier to explain the change and they will be able to comprehend why it is all different. I know children are very resilient, but still for the sake of 5 weeks I don’t think they need to deal with that change.
- There are no guarantees… my husband has an underlying condition. We are awaiting information from his consultant about whether this has any potential impact on the effects of corona if he were to get it. He wasn’t asked to shield, but we want to be sure before we head back out into the world. Also one of the twins has a narrowed airway and whilst the consultant has said that they have no evidence that airway issues are exacerbated by Covid-19 we want to minimise her risk of catching it as much as a possible so again we want to wait for the numbers to go down.
- We don’t know who is following social distancing rules. My interpretation of what is allowed and sensible could be different to someone else’s and that for me is a big concern…
- Little kids can’t and won’t distance once they are in school and we can’t expect them to so surely that ship has then sailed for entire families. Also having twins I am not sure how on earth that could work as they clearly touch one another at home so to ask them not to at school will be impossible. I don’t know how the teachers can manage this…
- We feel that this is asking a lot of teachers. They signed up to educate children not to face a virus that can cause serious issues. I remain unconvinced that children returning to school so soon doesn’t place an additional level of risk for the teachers and so since I can I feel like it is the right thing to do keep my children at home. Again if I were working this would not be something I would be in a position to consider.
- Finally I don’t believe that parents won’t then be standing around chatting after dropping off their kids. The school has (quite rightly) asked parents not to linger at the gates, but I am fairly sure that friends will walk away from the school chatting, they may even get take away coffee together and who can blame them… If your kids are together all day I could see how it would then seem pointless at the parents to stay away from one another and so I think this will cause an increase in potential for transmission. I know we are now allowed to social distance with one other person and I have done this too, but if you are at the school with 14 other parents even if you do follow the rules there will always be some who don’t. I’m not a scientist though it is just my opinion…
The long and short of it is we don’t feel confident that the timing is right. We feel it is too close to the time that lockdown was eased to consider opening schools again and especially for the littlest ones. I don’t judge anyone for making a different choice to me though as we are all in different situations and with the information we have been given we can all just make the decision that we feel is best for our families. I love the school that my children are at and I know that they all miss it. They especially miss their teachers and friends so this has been an impossible decision to make. I don’t want to take away their time at school and Lord knows I would love some time back for me, but for now at least we are taking a wait and see approach and so will not be sending our reception children back to school.