It seems to be a hot topic among many parents at the moment, about whether 5-11 year olds should be returning to schools or not. With many parents stressing that at the moment; it would be an unsafe and unnatural environment. Just looking at the picture of the children in France, separated off by the chalk boxes, tells us that the issues of sending children back could be greater than those associated with not sending them back. While some teacher unions are kicking off as well, stressing the importance of the safety of the children. Contorary to this, many others are saying that it is more unatural for children to be “stuck at home” for all of this time, and that it simply exaggerates the privilige that the more wealthy children have, and the disadvantage of the unwealthy children. And I feel a little in awe, feeling as if I am almost going adrift, being unable to think straight and form an opinion about the situation myself.
Primary school seems like such a distant memory for all of us, but thinking about this, it had only been about 6 years since I was attending. And while I am still in full time education, I feel that I ought to get a grasp on this. As to start with, there were some aspects to school which I admitidly sort of enjoyed back then. Plus although I didn’t learn very much, being realistic the small amount of what I did learn was important to me, and I still carry it with me today. Not to mention the countlesss hours running around in the “school’s plaayground” especially on a hot summer’s day. But this is not about fun in the fields, this is a serious pending issue, and if the wrong decision was to be made, it could cost lives. AlthoughI cannot imagaine what life would have been like at Primary school, if I were to have missed 6 months of a few months ago I would have been unable to imagaine what it would have been like to have to learn A levels from at home. But beingg over two months now, I am surviving and managing to get along ok. Which I am sure is the case with most primary children and families. But then again, I am aware that a number of people in my situation are struggling, as I am sure many primary aged children and families are too, and young children have far more energy to burnn than I do! Hence why some feel it is so important that they can be getting back to school. And what with country parks reopening near me, as-well as being allowed to meet up with one friend at a time, many would reckon that a little more social contact within primary school (which some say is more essential than a trip to see the duck-pond) would be harmless… But we know that is not the case, as it is much harder to control children when there are far more of them than adults, which is less likely to occur on a family outing! Therefore we need to look at the whole picture; trying to ensure essential safety, so that is no one is hurt while the best is done to maximise the welfare of these children. This way, to me it seems that a compromise needs to be made, between rather than with either of the extremes…
Firstly some will obviously stress the fact that it is next to impossible to keep children two metres apart from one another. And that’s precisely correct! During my time at Primary school, I suspect that I would have refused to stay 2 metres apart from friends, unless if there had been strong persuasion otherwise. Especially in the older years, as we become more rebellious. But I expect that I would have been more than happy to stick well away from those who I disliked, and I suppose with being fully informed and knowing that I could face seemingly severe punishments if I flounder these rules, I would have been capable with sticking in a small group. But that does not mean every individual student may be able to do this… Really it’s unpredictable how everyone would react. However at the same time, two and two can now meet in public, technically two metres apart but does that always happen? Therefore the opening of Primary school would result in the risk of the equilivent to a “mass gathering”. This way, the reopening of schools would be catastrophic…
Aswell, from this the issue of toy sharing arises. It is almost impossible that children would keep a toy to themselves until it is deeply cleaned, and it would be impossible that they would be able to keep their own to themselves. What’s more, it is a complete contradiction to what young children are always told to do; to share with others! As sharing needs to be taught, as they need to learn behaviours which basically benefit society. Yet at their young age, they proably don’t understand that further than from their own perspective; more toys for less. Likewise they won’t understand all of the circumstances and changes that are taking place- so won’t know how and why they should adapt their behaviour accordingly.
And while schools have been off, our country has been embarking on a 9 week long lesson so far, about the spreading of viruses and how to prevent the spread. Such as washing hands frequently after touching anything, washing hands before you eat and keeping your bloody distance from those who may have a virus themselves. Notorioiusly it’s known that young children are chief germ spreaders, and although we can try to teach them to practise hygine and social distancing, these are young children and putting all of our trust into this would be an enormous risk. Just like other risks taken prior to the lockdown… Therefore surly we should learn that it would be too soon to send them back!
It would be, of things were this simple. However hearing on the radio about how children from the poorest of families receive less than 4 hours of home school education, while those from wealthier families receive nearly 6, it seems to enhance the inequality of opportunity young children face. While it is fair to say that those from wealthier families probably receive education of a higher quality, while ones from poorest homes don’t. While again, this figure is just an estimate, and I would imagine that there are some young children barely getting anything at all. Therefore although at this stage it is not a case of whether they will pass or fail any important exam, it would simply be unfair if a few people had such huge gaps in such important skills and knowledge which is taught at such a young age. And inevitably this leads to them being less advanced as they age. So some of these gaps need to be filled…
The social side for these young children looks pretty grim too. Children may live at home with siblings, or considering how the relaxations are going, it may be soon that families are allowed to merge. Leading to children choosing being able to see cousins and other young relatives. With it being rather likely that more and more families will start doing this, if the law doesn’t begin to allow this. While others may have large gardens theye are able to run around in, and be able to spend as much time outside as they like.. Nevertheless some children are in households where there’s no children at all, meaning they would have very limited social contact. And we know that many young children are cooped up in small flats, where there is no form of garden space- being around one in eight (ons.gov.uk). While many of these would be homes where parents may be frequently be at work, so less likely to take their children out to either meet friends or just get a little space outdoors. So once again some young children are able to have some social contact and time outdoors while others get barely any. Which are both fundamental to a childs development, and 6 months without either of these could really put the child at disadvantage. And though the summer holidays are creeping up on us, iunfortunatly many young children don’t get to go out very frequently meaning they are yett again stuck indoors by themselves… Therefore these children would proably apprecriate any form of social contant and time outdoors, even if it means being in the grounds of “school” in very strange circumstances.
Judging from this, it seems like something inbetween would be most ideal, where we can focus on the wellbeing on those who are losing out most due to not being at school, while still being extrememly mindful on how to reduce the spread of the virus. And really, that would be impossible to achieve if the whole school was back at once.
From what the government has said about bringing back schools, there seemed to be little clarity. Though we do know that there’s been plans to return those in Reception, year one and year 6 have been outlined with classes containing no more than 15 pupils at a time, there is still no detail about how and when this will happen. Although these pupils are due to return on the 1st of June, at the earliest. Therefore I am sure many teachers, parents and children feel rather out in the blue about firstly what may happen, and secondly about whether there would be sufficient evidence and procedures to ensure it is safe.
Already many parents (and unions) have been kicking up about these plans. But it looks like parents quite rightly will not be fined for not sending their children back. However this is unlikely to stop some from feeling obliged to send them anyway, and even those who choose not to, would be likely to feel strong concern for those children, families and teachers who are effected by this. Moreover it would increase that risk of the virus spreading further and increase confusion amongst young children. Just imagaine a five year old trying to make sense of the “stay alert” message while at school when most of those who are more mature including myself, are struggling to get to grips with what this exactly implies. Not to mention the government and the “special advisors” themselves!
It is a very complicated situation, and it is still true that the fewer children there are in schools, the better. While we need to acknowledge that everyone’s situation is different, and it would be simply unfair to send a child back to school, if they had vulnerable household members. However in my eyes it is only right that those who are in households where they cannot play much, and their household members don’t get much time to educate them, should at least have the opportunity to do a bit of catchup and have a bit of essential time outside. Now you may think that this would be too risky, but really if a fifth of the school could come in for one day of a week, so one or two year groups per day depending on the size, then the spacing out wouldn’t be too much of an issue. Teaching wouldn’t necessarily have to take place in classrooms either, considering many primary schools have good amounts of outdoor space. The only issue would be at “playtime” where children would usually run around like mad, probably bumping into one another. Yet with less than a 5th of the school, dominating the same amount of outdoor space, with children limited in clusters, then hopefully this would not be too much of an issue. With enough space to spread out small friendship groups.
Moreover, thinking about it, those children of key-workers are already attending school. And if they weren’t it would mean in many cases no childcare. And as more and more are being “actively encouraged” to return to work, the last thing we want is an issue of who is going to take care of the children, so maybe these too could be allowed to attend each day if there are issues of childcare. Therefore anyone children in a household where child-care would be an issue, would be able to come into school any day, just like those children of keyworkers, whilst every family would have the choice upon themselves to send their child to school, for a day each week (or even just a morning). And in a way it is a steady move from having very few in schools, to hopefully more normal conditions once again at the start off the academic year in September.
Knowing all scenarios have potential consequences, it is just my gut feeling that opening schools up allowing just a few more children in per school day, would be the best way at going at things. This way, I feel that at least there could be some good, well-focused catch up on anything fundamental they have missed, which would especially benefit the more deprivileged. Meanwhile it is only fair that any child can have SOME outdoor time, even if it were to be very limited. Though this does not look like quite the plan of the government’s, with only planning to send back 3 of the 7 year groups, arguably being the most important. Although obviously the situation is changing all of the time, and all I can only really hope is that the closure of schools will effect the inequalities of opportunity between the rich and the poor as little as possible. Meanwhile the reopening of schools can be done in a safe and cautious way, without the chalk scenario being necessary…
~ Please let me know in the comments what you think?