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Revealed: Seven out of 10 parents in survey believe schools should reopen in September

PUBLISHED: 06:42 20 May 2020 | UPDATED: 11:03 20 May 2020

Social distancing measures as a child studies on a marked table. Photo: Jacob King/PA Wire

Social distancing measures as a child studies on a marked table. Photo: Jacob King/PA Wire

Almost two thirds of parents in Norfolk believe that children should not return to school until September.

Parents have been told they have the choice whether to send their children to school when some primary years return in June. Picture: PA ImagesParents have been told they have the choice whether to send their children to school when some primary years return in June. Picture: PA Images

A survey of close to 1,000 parents, teachers, pupils and others by this newspaper revealed that 61pc felt that the start of the new school academic year would be the safest time for children to return to school.

Under government plans, children in reception, year one and year six will be back in school from June 1, with the aim for all primary school pupils to go back for a month of teaching before the summer break.

But the survey found that 79pc believed youngsters should not return to the classroom in June.

Of those surveyed, just 20pc agreed that pupils should return in June, with three per cent suggesting a July return and 61pc stating they would prefer it to wait until September.

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for childrens services. Picture: Broadland District CouncilJohn Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for childrens services. Picture: Broadland District Council

A further 15pc said that youngsters should only return to school when a coronavirus vaccine was available.

MORE: Everything you need to know about school reopenings

The belief that children should remain off school until September was strongly held by both parents (71pc) and teachers (73pc).

However those who responded but said they were neither a parent, teacher or student were more split with 29pc backing a June return and less than half saying reopenings should wait until September.

The phased reopening has been hit with confusion and uncertainty. Some head teachers have expressed concern while teaching unions have branded the plans “reckless” and issued a checklist of dozens of questions teachers should ask about measures to keep pupils and staff safe.

Schools have been closed except for vulnerable and key worker children since March 23. Picture: Tim Goode/PA WireSchools have been closed except for vulnerable and key worker children since March 23. Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire

Guidelines from the Department for Education (DfE) state that class sizes should be limited to 15, desks should be spaced apart and outdoor space should be utilised. It also advises schools to stagger lunch and break times, as well as drop-off and pick-up times, to reduce the number of pupils moving around.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has admitted it will not be possible to socially distance such young children, but the DfE guidance suggests small “consistent” groups be kept to stop them mixing with other pupils during the day.

He told MPs that opening schools was the “responsible” course of action. “The best place for children to be educated and to learn is in school,” he said, particularly for the disadvantaged who would be most likely to fall further behind.

MORE: Heads know best when schools should reopen, say council chiefs

Norfolk County Council said it was working with schools on risk assessments but recognised it would be “demanding” for schools to open to more children - but that head teachers were best placed to decide when to reopen.

Children of essential workers eat lunch in segregated positions. Nursery and primary pupils could return to classes from June 1 following the announcement of plans for a phased reopening of schools. Picture: Jacob King/PA WireChildren of essential workers eat lunch in segregated positions. Nursery and primary pupils could return to classes from June 1 following the announcement of plans for a phased reopening of schools. Picture: Jacob King/PA Wire

John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We all want life to return to normal and for children to be able to get back to school, nursery and college so that they can carry on with their education and be with their friends.

“However, this needs to happen in a very careful way so that we do not see any further peaks in infection and children and staff can stay as safe as possible.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street. Picture: Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA WireEducation secretary Gavin Williamson speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street. Picture: Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

“We will continue to support schools with their planning in the coming weeks, to ensure they have the advice and help they need to safely open to more children, when the time is right.”

Schools across Norfolk have been closed to the majority of pupils since March 20, including over the two-week Easter break. By June 1, the majority of children will have been at home for 10 weeks.

Children abide by a traffic light system for social distancing when washing their hands. Primary pupils could return to classes from June 1. Picture: Jacob King/PA WireChildren abide by a traffic light system for social distancing when washing their hands. Primary pupils could return to classes from June 1. Picture: Jacob King/PA Wire

Asked in our survey to rank how difficult schooling at home had been on a scale of one to five, 11pc of parents rated it at five, while 62pc said three or over. Just 14pc said one, suggesting they had not found it difficult.

MORE: Should I send my children back to school? Take part in our virtual video debate

Secondary schools and further education colleges are set to stay closed under the government plans, however there will be some face-to-face contact with year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year.

Teenagers who were due to sit GCSE and A-levels this summer will now get results awarded using teacher assessment.

Despite this 80pc of respondents to our survey said universities should accept the grades of first year students who have not sat exams, with 20pc saying they should not.

What parents said in our survey…

• A Brundall parent, who backed June school reopenings, said: “Children need to be back to school. The positives far outweigh the minimal risks, and the mental health damage to parents and children could be permanent if something is not done fast.”

• Another parent from King’s Lynn added: “Teachers should be as proactive as NHS staff, healthcare workers, postmen, bin men, carers etc who make every effort to help us and set a magnificent example, whereas the teaching professionals don’t want to know.”

• A Norwich parent said: “Children need stability and routine. It has been scary for them but the majority will be better with education under a controlled environment.”

• But a parent and teacher, from Beccles, backed a September return saying: “It’s far too early even to be thinking about opening schools. It is hoped that the situation will be clearer by July/August.”

• Another from Sheringham stated: “Schools are struggling to adhere to ever changing government advice - which is unclear and ambiguous. No one wants children back in school more than teachers but children returning within the next fortnight is about economics not about education or children’s welfare.”

• A Norwich teacher and parent said school reopening should only happen after a vaccine is found, adding: “All the teachers I know are missing their job, the students and their colleagues. We desperately want to return and resume the youngsters education. We need to know and be reassured it is safe to do so.”

• Another Norwich parent who backed waiting for a vaccine said: “Children and teachers should not be thought of as guinea pigs just because ‘children supposedly have a lower risk’ of contracting the virus.”


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