January 19, 2021
Europe

Parents ‘needlessly sending kids to school’ making it hard for key workers’ children

mirror– Key workers have reported their struggles in dropping their children at school amid claims some non-key worker parents are needlessly sending their kids to school.

Parents who work in key worker sectors are permitted to send their children to school – while all others have been told to keep children to engage in remote learning.

However, some parents and teachers have claimed schools are dramatically busier than the first closure during lockdown one earlier this year.

Some key workers have said they have even been denied a place for the child as classrooms fill up during the UK’s third lockdown.

Victoria Pass told the Manchester Evening News said: “I’m a frontline NHS worker and been declined by my child’s school. Now I’m questioning whether to go to work or stay at home and not help save lives because my children need me.”

A teaching assistant has also been refused spaces for her children because her partner isn’t a key worker, yet he still has to work – leaving her unable to teach at her own school.

While mental health worker Ewa Fcia said her son didn’t get a place at school because she works remotely from home – but she’s unable to do what’s required when he’s there.

“I work in mental health in the NHS. As it’s not physical health I work remotely from home,” she said.

“Because I work from home my son didn’t get a place in school. However, it is not possible to do any kind of therapy with anyone with a four-year-old at home as he will interrupt any appointments that I will have via video link with patients.

“I will struggle to see patients as I normally do now. How is that protecting NHS services?”

Others spoke of how much busier schools are compared with the last lockdown, with some now choosing to keep them home because of the numbers.

Among them is Katie Cowley, a teacher who lives in Rochdale, who said some parents at her children’s school had been outside ‘talking about what a lovely day they have had at home with no children’.

She said: “I was amazed at the amount of children in when I dropped mine off. As a teacher myself I have no choice but to send them in, I am genuinely worried for their safety and may now decide not to send them in, I am so worried for them and myself.

“‘I don’t need full time provision, there are times when I could keep my children at home and successfully fulfil my duties as a teacher and parent, but to access that provision I have to send mine in full time.”

Kirsty Frances is also concerned over the number of children, saying: “I work in school kitchens and have to put both my kids in school so I can be in work. I’ve seen my children’s school have to turn people away already but there’s far too many kids already in.”

And Jo Harrow said she hoped schools were checking for proof of key worker status.

“I hope to god schools are asking for letters from employers to ensure they are genuine,” she said. “I know my son’s school had a number of people taking advantage last time and it’s not fair.”

The increase in demand is in part due to an expansion of the list of critical workers and vulnerable children entitled to a space.

For example, the ‘vulnerable children and young people’ list now includes ‘those who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study)’.

Teaching unions today raised concerns, with one heads’ union reporting that some schools have had 70 per cent of their families requesting on-site provision.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “We’re increasingly concerned about the sheer demand for key worker and vulnerable pupil places this week.

“Our members are telling us that demand for places is much higher than it was during the first lockdown last spring. We’ve heard stories of some schools having 50-70 per cent in.

“This could seriously undermine the impact of lockdown measures, and may even run the risk of extending school closures.”

Another mum suggested that perhaps parents wouldn’t be so keen to send their children to school if they were happy with the remote learning being provided – something that’s proved somewhat of a lottery for families depending on what their child’s school is offering.

Catherine Ibison said: “Maybe because they know the effect that this is having on their children’s education and they want them to be taught. Not to be given an online class on a mobile app that they have to work from PowerPoint on with no teacher available if they get stuck.

“I wonder how many teachers have tested this and see the end user experience (student).”

She added: “How have all schools not adapted for true virtual learning by now when they have had 10 months to nail it?! Why have some schools not embraced Zoom and only using it for assembly and not classes. Maybe that’s the reason! Sort the virtual learning out and more parents may have the confidence that their children are indeed getting an education!”

The issue was raised at Mayor Andy Burnham’s weekly press conference on Wednesday.

Asked whether he supported the decision of some schools to limit spaces to children with two key worker parents, he said schools need to be trusted to make their own judgements.

“I think we should back schools generally through this period. We should trust their judgements and back them as much as we can,” said the mayor.

“I certainly have heard of schools who are trying to open their doors to as many as they feel they can safely support because I think, having strict rules about saying only one parent a key worker – in some cases it might be better for that family if those children could be accommodated in school.

“We need to stop dictating to schools what they must do and when they must do something, but whatever they believe is right for their students, for their community, we should be doing what we can to try to support them in making those decisions.

“If there isn’t an online learning package for people, I think we would want to support schools if they then decided to help bring more people back into the school environment.”

“It’s going to be a case of working with the schools, backing headteachers to come up with the right solutions for their communities.”

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