Many of us have spent the last year juggling childcare, work and home-schooling and as time has gone on, perhaps, some of us have begun to find the juggle becoming a little more difficult and a little more challenging.
I am no exception to this and certainly have to admit that this term has probably been the most difficult. Running a business, taking calls or answering emails from schools, doing some home visits to check on the welfare of children and juggling two children at home (one in College and one in secondary school) who both need to be online at the same time has proved frustrating at times but on the whole we have muddled through successfully. I know how lucky I am that they are both old enough to allow me to work (mostly undisturbed when I need to) and how lucky they are to have access to the technology they need to do their own learning. I’m also an ex-teacher so have had that as an advantage too.
However, the next challenge we face is the return to school and College. I assumed (wrongly) that both of my two would be quite happy to return. However, the questions started from my youngest (aged 13) as soon as the Government announcement of a reopening on 8th March was announced. “Mum, why are they sending us back when rates of infection are so high still”; “Mum, it will only cause another spike in infections and we will be all be back to home-school again”; “Mum why can’t they wait another 2 weeks, more people will be vaccinated and we can go back after Easter”; “I don’t want to wear a mask all day – surely that means we are more at risk then which means it’s stupid to send us back”…….and so the questions go on.
This has been life over the last week….and am sure it has been the same in most homes. Thing is, I’m an Education Welfare Officer, I firmly believe that for the most children the best opportunities they receive come from being in the classroom. I’m an ex-teacher, I believe that all children have the right to be taught well, kept safe and gain opportunity….and I am a parent of a frightened and anxious child. This time around the old “Do you know what I do for a living??” was not going to wash…
So, we’ve sat and we’ve talked about his fears. We’ve watched the video from Professor Whitty about the return to school. Coronavirus: Chris Whitty highlights the importance of children returning to school on 8 March – YouTube and then we worked through his questions.
“So why before Easter?” – so that if the rates do start to creep up then there is a natural break. It also means schools have the time to do their testing.
“How are they going to test us if we all go back on the same day?” – you won’t, school will have a plan to bring you all back in a staggered way. It might mean for 2 weeks that you do a mixed week of some time in school and some time at home.
“But it’s still mad to send us back, we might catch it, that’s why we need to wear masks in the classes too now” – no, the risks to children are small, they always have been. Nothing in life has no risks. The masks help to reduce the risk more and help to create that more cautious approach. It’s the same as now giving you testing so that asymptomatic carriers can be identified.
“The tests aren’t good” – no test is perfect. Yes, some people may still slip through the net until their viral load is high but surely testing is better than none (We got some agreement there).
We’ve talked about the vaccine; we’ve talked about the hand-washing; we’ve talked about the mask on the bus, corridors, busy spaces etc.
Is he happy to be going back? No, not really but he’s feeling a little less anxious and he misses his friends badly. He misses his teachers and he misses the routine.
I miss the fact that my child was once care-free and worried about very little. I suspect he’s grown up a lot more than I would have wanted over the last year, I suspect the anxiety will continue to some degree and I suspect he will remain cautious for a while yet.
Am I worried about him falling behind? If I’m totally honest, no, but I am worried about his mental health and the impact this virus has had on that. I suspect many parents are in the same position. I trust his school to get it right, I know how hard they (and colleagues in other schools I work with) have worked and will continue to work to offer support and to make the space safe for all their children. I know how much they miss the children too and I suspect, like me, many parents with their own children will all be answering similar questions and muddling their way through.
And the eldest……she just wants to know how her A-Level grades will be calculated…but that’s a whole other story!