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To school or not to school?

It's the dilemma that's dividing the nation - is it safe to send our children back to school on Monday? Two Muddy editors, one pro and one against, explain why they've made their personal decision.

I WOULD SEND MY CHILD BACK IN 

Ali Agnew, Editor, Muddy Kent

My son is Y6 and therefore due to go back to school with the first wave of returning children. We decided to send him in, and having fully explained the situation to him he’s happy with this (which is of course important).

This is not to say it’s an easy decision. My kids are the most precious thing in the world to me, as is the health of all my family and friends. And I certainly don’t want to see any teachers, or their families, put under unnecessary risk either.

I haven’t struggled as much with home-schooling as some of my friends with younger, or bigger, families, or those with tougher jobs, and my children’s schools have done a great job of virtual learning. I’m used to working from home in school holidays, with noise, chaos, and continual interruption. But we feel that just as it was important as a family to stick to the self-isolating guidelines during peak lockdown, that we’ll stand up and be counted and play our part in the next stage for the greater good too.

As time has passed, the evidence that children are largely spared from Covid-19 and are also minimally contagious has become stronger. At the same time, teachers and policymakers are aware that school closures perpetuate a long list of known harms to children, not least the ‘disadvantage gap’ that is affecting deprived and vulnerable children.

Of course, it’s a highly contentious issue and one thing we all must do is be respectful of one another’s viewpoint. Everyone’s situation is different. I live in rural Kent and, unlike one or two of my very dear friends, no one in my household is living with an underlying health condition or compromised immune system. 

This virus is going to be with us (to various degrees) for some time yet and life is not going to go back to normal for many months, if not years. We need to gently adjust and find a way forward and sending our son back to school within strict safety rules is an important step.

MY CHILD IS STAYING HOME

Hero Brown, Editor in Chief, Muddy Stilettos

Yeah but, no but, yeah but! Turns out that I have more in common with Little Britain’s school girl Vicky Pollard than my exploding body shape. Over the last four weeks, I’ve changed my mind so many times about sending my 11-year-old back to school that the catchphrase has become something of a running joke in the house. And though I’ve finally decided not to go ahead for this Monday, I’m not at all convinced that I won’t change my mind after a week or so and push him through the gates.

Until last week I thought we’d decided that Cass would re-start his education on 1 June. His school has been very organised in its approach to re-opening and the safety measures in place are stringent. Also because the school only goes from Y3-6, it means that his year of roughly 40 kids is the only year group in school – no R or Y1 children who will struggle more with social distancing or tripling of pupils numbers to increase risk. There are decent-sized grounds meaning lots of outdoor teaching and relative safety. 

And of course, I can see that he’s also incredibly bored at home and has struggled with being lonely – two hours on the X-Box with his mates, though fun at the time, still leaves another 12 hours to fill and now I’m working full days I often only have half an eye to him. Unlike his 13-year-old sister who has caught up with her best friend for daily 2m-distant walks (basically an excuse to talk endlessly about boys and fashion), Cass is a bit young to be let off the leash around the village on his own for hours on end.

So why not send him in then? Well, Mr M has an underlying health condition that has made us more anxious than some – we actually pulled our kids from school and all sports a week before lockdown happened for this reason. Six weeks of school for Cass feels like an unnecessary risk when any ‘learning’ will be promptly forgotten by school holidays anyway. Waiting until September instead – a full three months extra of learning how to cope safely with the virus – feels sensible. 

I totally accept that it’s an important rite of passage for children to finish an existing school, say goodbye to their teachers and feel they are ready for the next secondary stage of their education, but Cass is a very smart kid, understands the situation and seems pretty sanguine about not going in. When he realised he couldn’t mix at all with his best friends (who are in another class) his main motivation to go back-ended.

Yeah but no but… I’m still not sure! There’s no right or wrong, that’s the thing, only what’s right for your own family and circumstances. I entirely respect every parent or carer’s personal decision on this and of course, parents with younger children set to return – the Reception and Year 1s will be grappling with a similar but nuanced set of issues with their own children (not least, how do you stop a 5-year-old girl cuddling her bestie?). 

I’ll be watching school reopening closely and talking to my friends who are sending in their kids about it’s working for them, and also keeping a close eye on Covid cases as lockdown eases. If it all goes smoothly, I might yet decide to send in Cass for the remainder of the term – better late than never, right? But for now, we remain cautious. I’m comfortable with that.

How do you feel about sending your children to school? We’d love to know your thoughts. Comment below.

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