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Is it sensible to allow specified year groups back to school?

Many schools have remained open since the lockdown, for children of Key Workers and those children who are vulnerable, and teachers have been in the classroom each day supporting those in need.

Hygiene measures have been put in place, but no masks or gloves have been provided for teaching and support staff and social distancing has been challenging with young children.

Education unions are meeting the chief medical officer and other experts today over the Government’s push to reopen schools for specific year groups in England for the final few weeks of term, amid mounting criticism of the approach.

The unions and the Local Government Association (LGA) have expressed concerns as ministers push for a gradual reopening of classrooms from June 1.

But the teaching unions have faced their own backlash over their approach, with former Labour education secretary Lord Blunkett saying: “I am being deeply critical of the attitude.

“It’s about how can we work together to make it work as safely as possible. Anyone who works against that in my view is working against the interests of children.”

There are no plans yet to follow suit in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and teachers’ unions have expressed fears that the move would be too soon due to the risks of infection from coronavirus.

But Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has defended the approach, saying he arranged Friday’s meeting to brief teachers’ representatives on “the scientific advice underpinning our approach”.

Mr Williamson said if the scientists said a “limited number” of children could be sent back to school, it was his duty to allow this to happen.

The Education Secretary assured teachers and parents the June 1 returns would be the first phase of a “controlled and careful” process which would involve a range of protective measures, including keeping class sizes small, making sure children stayed within small groups, observing strict hygiene and cleaning measures, and having breaks and mealtimes staggered to reduce crowding.

Boris Johnson, announcing his plans for taking England out of lockdown, said Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils would go back first.

But National Education Union joint secretary Mary Bousted said a “wider opening of schools, too early, poses a lot of unanswered questions about the risks in poor communities”.

Local authority leaders also accused ministers of going too fast on schools and demanded more local control over their return.

The LGA has said schools should be allowed to make their own decisions about reopening, especially in areas where there is a higher proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic residents.

Councillor Judith Blake, chairwoman of the LGA’s children and young people board, said parents were “anxious” about sending their children back to school and said more needed to be done to reassure families.

What are your views? If you were a teacher or support worker would you feel safe to be in school? As a parent how would you feel about your child returning to school?

Is it sensible to allow specified year groups back to school?

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Llynfi
6th Jun 2020
0
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Too much is unknown Better to be safe than sorry
Irene88
25th May 2020
0
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My sister in law has worked in school all throughout the lockdown. No one has become ill. Her school reopens to reception, Year 1 and year 6 on 8th June - end of half term.
honestjohn
23rd May 2020
3
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Think if any children should return it's those aged 15 and 16+ who will shortly be taking exams that could impact on the rest of their lives. Taken that the average length of education is 11 years this group has less than 10% of its time left, whereas 5 & 6 year olds have 90% remaining - sufficient for them all to make up for lost time. Missing three months at the lower end of the age range is hardly a tragedy as children are very resilient and will comfortably catch up.
SueC62
23rd May 2020
1
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Certainly not the intended age groups. Just shows that it's about the economy. Sending younger children back to school, means there is no reason for their working parents to be at home.

If it was about education, then the later years' students should be going back first.

Everything the UK government has done through the pandemic has been to promote herd immunity and now the focus is on the economy.
SuzyElgie
22nd May 2020
1
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Schools have remained open throughout the lockdown taking key worker And vulnerable children , i3 of my grandchildren have been attending school during the lockdown period .
The teachers have worked in rotation during this period whilst delivering in on line classes for those at home and taking food parcels to the poorest families .
If we allow children to start returning we will need to ensure that the key worker children are kept apart from the others for both the pupils and teachers and their safety .Plus there would need to be a deep clean every day, temperatures taken as pupils arrive and PPE for the teachers who are not under 15
I believe we should wait until September for children in the wider community to return - as I understand it pupils in Public schools aka Private won’t be returning until September .
thetruth67
20th May 2020
0
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It's about the amount of risk involved.
I looked on the ONS website for Covid-19 deaths in under 15's using a bar graph. It did not register as a percentage.
We did not lockdown with previous pandemics like Sars so why now?
jeanmark
20th May 2020
2
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By the time the global SARS outbreak was contained in 2003, there had been 800 deaths with over 8,000 people been infected worldwide. As you know, COVID-19 has already surpass that out break in the number of people infected and for the number that have died. That is why this pandemic is different.

A risk assessment has to evaluate all risks. Where schools are concerned, the degree of risk to teachers, other staff and other parents, who may come in close contact with a child who is infected but asymptomatic, has to be figured in to any equation. I'm not sure there is sufficient evidence to date that has identified the degree of risk posed should a child be infected. Particularly as Reception and Year 1 children are naturally tactile and too young to understand about such things as risks with contact.
thetruth67
20th May 2020
0
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I do wonder how they were able to contain it then after 800 deaths and not now with SARS COV 2.
These are certainly unprecedented times with the lockdown, because it introduces new problems and cannot be a direct comparison with SARS 2003.
There are a few questions to be asked.
How accurate are the tests?
If they are only testing for Covid how do they know if other viruses are not present?
How do they prove it was COvid that caused their demise when they have co morbidities?
jeanmark
21st May 2020
0
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COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus and appears to be a more virulent one. I understand the test for the virus is accurate as it does belong to a known family of viruses that include that causing SARS. The test is able to identify which virus, distinguishing it from other viruses, that is how any viral infection is diagnosed. As to cause of death, it will include the probability of cause when taking other factors into consideration and include such questions as would that person have died regardless of being infected or did infection hasten death.

There should be systems and processes in place for management of a pandemic regardless of cause and a 3 day simulation of a pandemic, albeit for flu, carried out in 2016 and codenamed Exercise Cygnus identified deficiencies but it appears these were ignored.
thetruth67
21st May 2020
0
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I did look at Exercise Cygnus and as you imply that they did not learn from it.
There was an American Simulation of a Coronavirus Pandemic held on 18th October 2019 in New York. coincidentally 2 months before the actual outbreak.
In my opinion they should not count Covid 19 as the cause of death just because it may be a contributory factor.and add it to the growing numbers of Covid deaths. People with co morbidities are always more likely to succumb to a virus like the flu.
jeanmark
22nd May 2020
0
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I think it must count if it is identified that death was hastened because of the virus, but they would not consider it a factor if death was expected within a short time. The same would apply regardless of what organism was in involved.

What will be interesting is how history treats this governments handling of the outbreak and what lessons will be learnt for future pandemics.
Yodama
18th May 2020
3
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Scientists and doctors are predicting a second and third wave of coronavirus in around September and/or October, resulting in a lockdown far worse than now.
Maybe it is time to get used to home -schooling children via internet. Places like Australia and other remote areas have been using this system for many years.

Better to be safe than sorry and have the deaths escalate.
Economically it will be a disaster, but what do governments do in these circumstances?
They are in between a rock and a hard place.
Lionel
18th May 2020
3
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Undergirding my thoughts with limited data from Spanish 'Flu, I believe the kids would be better off at home with online coaching pending the beginning of any second wave. Then, as suggested below, it would be time to evacuate city kids for their own safety. The interregnum between waves of 'flu allows time to prepare the uprooting and re-planting of our kids.

It's been done before.

That there will be a second wave is certain in my mind. The phrase 'second wave,' is increasingly trailed in the media as if to acclimatise us to the thought. Further, selling the public a second lock down as little as three months from now will be a political nightmare. But that lockdown would need to be much tighter and more rigorously enforced than this present one. Failure is not an option.
Jenbev41
16th May 2020
1
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The teaching staff have enough pressure put on them ,l wonder if Off stead will still come in and check how school are performing ???
I think not ........
Bald123
16th May 2020
2
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Teachers are the bedrock of our society-without them none of us would learn anything so we need to listen to their views and concerns. They know best not Gavin Williamson who knows about as much about teaching as he did defense.
Retiredyorkie
16th May 2020
1
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If someone can come up with an idea on how to socially distance children will be a genius.
Margaret Hart
16th May 2020
1
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I think the decisions they have to make at the moment are very difficult and they have to start somewhere but Whether starting with the youngest ones is correct I have my doubts as they will find it tiring after being at home all the time and possibly having more rests and being the least able to understand the idea of not being able to touch each other. The ones who go up to seniors next year and the ones who take there first set of O levels or whatever they are called now seems a better idea. I would have said first year A level students but as they won’t have got their results by then. Whenever the schools go back the children are going to have to be much better behaved or the keeping apart will be impossible and the loss of teachers will become endemic.
Billythequiche
16th May 2020
6
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I am not a teacher, a scientist or an epidemiologist, so my opinion is a "gut feeling" at best. One thing is for sure, it's a lose lose situation for the government; opinion is so divided that they will attract criticism whatever they decide. If what I have heard is true, small children have not been shown to be an important vector for infection. The education missed at a crucial age cannot be replaced. Even if they have to socially distance, they should be allowed some social connection with their peers if only for personal development outside of the home.
I read as many teachers for as against. Controversially, and with the greatest respect to the teaching profession, if the decision is to go ahead, after voicing their opinion, they should comply. This pandemic must NOT be politicised and government policy must apply to everyone, not just those who choose to obey. Any teacher not going to work because of union involvement should be deemed on strike and not eligible for furlough. I realise this will upset some but there are no exceptions for shop workers etc., why for teachers?
olivep
17th May 2020
3
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Billythequiche….. I agree with your comments. Couldnt have said it better myself.
JE
17th May 2020
3
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I agree with you completely. We need to gradually start getting back to some sort of ‘normality’ and that includes getting children back to school. I fully appreciate the concerns but It is worth remembering that some teachers have been working through all of this with classes of mixed age groups of key workers children. So there is some experience already of how to manage the children in class and the adults dropping them off and picking them up and what extra measures need to be put in place.
Another point, I am not sure but do not think all teachers have actually been furloughed but are actually receiving their full salary.
Billythequiche
18th May 2020
-1
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Thank you. Feel better now to know I am not talking rubbish.
Billythequiche
18th May 2020
0
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Pleasantly surprised, I expected a barrage of criticism bordering on threatening. Is it just the lovely people on this site, or is it that our "demographic" is more open to free and reasoned exchanges of views?
I thought the Brexit debate was nasty but some of the things done and said during this Pandemic are disgusting. The vast number of the population squared their shoulders and came together to stand against Covid, but there are always rebels, rabble rousers and opportunists. The worst ones, apart from thugs and scammers, are those that said little of consequence in the beginning but are now all-knowing in perfect hind-sight.
There will be a time in the future to analyse where things could have been done better and shine a light on the reasons. For now, cautionary voices and opinions yes, but unity of purpose must be paramount.
JE
18th May 2020
3
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I too, am far from an expert in scientific, medical and political issues and have to accept what these professionals decide is the best way forward. It is not going to be easy or pleasant and I fully accept the reservations of some parents and teachers, but we just can not continue in the current climate indefinitely. I think that sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and move things on. Yes, we may not always get it right but we have to at least try, based on the best advice available at any given time. If the plans are unworkable and/or there are genuine health and safety issues then no one would expect teachers and children to continue in those circumstances. I really believe they should “suck it and see”!
It seems that we are to follow an almost identical plan to that already in place in Denmark and according to an article at the weekend from a teacher there, it appears to be working well.
Billythequiche
19th May 2020
-1
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Sensible and measured comments. Well said.
jeanmark
20th May 2020
2
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Whilst respecting the comments on your thread and understanding peoples views, one of my concerns is it is only state schools that have to start to return, public schools remain closed until September.
Billythequiche
21st May 2020
-1
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As I said, my views are only tempered by what I know and what I know is tempered by the veracity of info from Government and and from media. Neither source can be totally accepted as unadulterated and factual. I suspect that it has to do with Government controlling state schools through councils but public schools being independent and self funded, but I may be completely wrong.
Schools and teachers have already been providing schooling for children of key workers with no discernible issues; why is it suddenly so risky? I feel that children and their educational future are being used by unions and pressure groups for political purposes which is reprehensible. Any teacher or teachers leader who describes children as "mucky and wipe snot over you" should be deemed unfit and sacked.
In the end it is a very personal decision that I am very happy I do not have to make. Any such individual decision is a matter of conscience. It must NEVER be used to hold children hostage to the will of those who do not have the welfare of the children as their primary goal.
jeanmark
21st May 2020
1
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I agree on the type of schools although a cynic would point out many MP's children attend Public schools!

I am aware that some children have been attending school and there have been no problems, but their numbers are small compared to what is now being asked. Unions have a responsibility to protect their members and they are only asking to be given reassurance that all schools are given time to put systems and processes in place to protect both children and themselves. That to me is not putting children and their educational future at risk for political purposes. However, I do believe the Government know they can not get the economy started unless workers are able to return to work and this is difficult for those with childcare issues. Why else would they start with Reception and Year 1 - 4/5 and 5/6 years olds who have no understanding of social distancing? I'm not even sure the Government are achieving their own guidelines set out in their 5 point plan for easing the lockdown, so I believe the Government are putting money before people. There is no denying there is going be a worldwide recession thus a few more weeks of lockdown should not be seen as making a difference other than trying to reduce the effects caused by a second wave of the outbreak.
Billythequiche
22nd May 2020
-1
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Hi Jean. Sorry, could not resist the poor attempt to lighten the mood. Thankfully, I do not suffer mentally but do get fed up.
Your points are cogent and hard to argue with. we may not agree on everything but I admire your considered arguments. opposing you in a debate or society would be very hard but very enjoyable if I had prepared and had facts at hand. Am I allowed to say that? Understanding political correctness is not my greatest skill.
I do not think that anyone has all the answers, least of all the government but I think things could have been much worse.
I would like to think that an enquiry at a later date would lead to excellent crisis plans, but looking back at Kings Cross, 7/7 and London Bridge I am not confident.
Reading the quality of posts on this site, the government could do worse than a "council of elders" or "grey advisors" but certainly NOT the calibre of those sitting in the upper house.
Keep safe,
Bill
jeanmark
22nd May 2020
0
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Thank you Bill, and I also get fed up, particularly as I am one of people who have been instructed to stay in the house for 12 weeks, not even being allowed to go our for a walk.

I have always liked debates and believe me I have a strong opinion on most things including what is and what is not political correctness! In my line of work you had to be ready for almost anything.

I'm afraid I believe this government has mismanaged this pandemic by refusing to learn from other countries management. We had the 'advantage' of being two to three weeks behind Europe and they still went their own way, which many believe has resulted in some avoidable deaths. In 2016 and in conjunction with the NHS, they carried out a 3 day simulation of a pandemic, albeit for flu, codenamed Exercise Cygnus and this identified deficiencies but it appears these were ignored. All of us can only hope they start to learn that an economy will recover, but you can't recover from death!
ArchieUK
16th May 2020
3
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the biggest problem I can see is parents stood outside the school in groups waiting for children to come out, that is where the biggist danger lies
MikeR3
16th May 2020
3
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This seems a bit too quick for my liking. If I had school age children I would not be sending them for a few weeks schooling. The better thing would be to cancel this term and start again on 1st September. to try and catch up reduce the school holidays where possible.

why risk young lives for a few weeks where the kids and parents will be too scared to concentrate on studies.
AnneC912
16th May 2020
1
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I accept we need to plan the very best way to open schools and it makes sense that there will be a need to implement many changes. It needs to be at the appropriate time. That is when we are much more confident than we are now that not only is the magic R is already consistently lower but that we can identify and respond timely to any increase in infection rates. We also need to understand more about the inflammation response being experienced by children who have had the virus. Just holding off a bit longer, maybe putting increased support for at risk children to help them attend the schools that have already been open.
Dave2019
15th May 2020
2
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I can see no justification for returning our reception and year 1 children to school, until we have control of covid19. To expect little ones who have not seen their friends for over 2 months to observe social distance is ridiculous! Just getting them onto the premises safely for parents to observe social distancing will be a logistical nightmare, these children are still babies in the grand scheme of things another few weeks will not make such an impact on their education, return them when it is safe to do so and they will be eager to learn and they will fly.
I believe only upper High School children who are old enough to understand the dangers of this epidemic should be allowed to return in June.
Lionel
15th May 2020
3
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Well, I've not been a parent or school teacher so just maybe I'm a little more objective.

The idea of a 'second wave,' has been trailed in the press (breadcrumbs in the Hans Christian Anderson stories or was it Brothers Grimm?) It's also been mentioned several times in the Afternoon briefings and news bulletins.

Spanish 'flu had a second, vastly more devastating second wave. That's when the numbers soared, ending in an estimated 50 million victims.

If we now begin to put children and youngsters back in school and a massive second wave hits then take them out again to another couple of months at home the damage to these kids will probably be permanent.

Surely, leave them where they are until we know what is happening. Or ...

In 1940 kids were evacuated from the cities to rural areas. My grand mother raised a couple. It would be a short term pre-emptive measure. They would be more secure from the virus and in a better, more challenging environment.

I'm fully aware 'experts' are telling us children aren't affected by this virus. May I point out here, they're not affected by the first wave. What the second wave could be like no one is saying if indeed any 'experts' have a clue. Going on Spanish 'flu it will be exceedingly more virulent.

Any thoughts anyone?
RachW51
15th May 2020
3
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I am a SEN TA and Forest School Leader and it broke my heart today looking at preperationd in Reception. Classrooms - no soft toys, no cushions, no book corner and squares taped on the floor to sit on. It is a shell of a classroom and they won’t even get a hug or a hand to hold - how is this not damaging to the children? Some countries don’t start education until 6 or 7 why are we so desperate for children to be back at school? So many risks both physical and mental
JaniceF21
15th May 2020
3
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As a former Head of Early Years I cannot stress how impossible it would be to segregate young children to allow " social distancing". Added to this, particularly in London, if older children have to use public transport to get to school not only are they more at risk of becoming ill they now have to pay bus fare for the "privilege." Schools should not be opened until it is 100% safe to do so, for pupils, staff and the wider community.
Mari50
15th May 2020
4
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I do not think it is a good idea. What if someone has a child in year 1 and one in year 4 there could be some impossible explaining to do by parents. Also children are not sure what 2 metres are. If a child sees a friend he or she will do what all children of thst age do. I am glad all mine have grown up!
Wipeout
15th May 2020
3
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The saying "Herding Cats" comes to mind...bad idea.
JoyceP7
15th May 2020
4
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Year 6, year10, and year 12, yes please, but reception and year 1 pupils would be a nightmare to organise and keep within distancing advice. Listen to the teachers!!!!
Yagala
15th May 2020
3
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In my private opinion it is very sensible to get specific year groups back to school. What about the highest year classes who have an end examination to go through soon.
How about first year primary schools, those little children would be quite confused to get from home all day to school for a half day. I believe there are other groups of adults as well who have to sharpen up what they were taught before the put on free time, in order to get up to were they left off all those weeks before.
There should be communication between those groups (and their representatives) in order to get a smooth slotting in for all the age/knowledge groups with the teachers/tutors.
Nannypink
15th May 2020
4
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Our scheme is to be a mirror of that which Denmark have used and which is working without issue as I understand it. The schools have six weeks to get the guidelines in place. Obviously parents may be anxious but these year groups need the routine of school, too long a break will cause issues for them in the next academic year
Pennybyfar
15th May 2020
4
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If the experts say it is safe to go back to school, then it is up to the schools and teachers to ensure that their school is ready and safe to do so by initiating and following best practice policies and procedures. This will give parents the confidence to allow their children to return.
RachW51
15th May 2020
2
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But the experts aren’t prepared to go back into Parliament on 1 June!
Bald123
16th May 2020
1
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Yes well that is typical of them
Rosedeb
15th May 2020
7
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They can't stay at home forever, and a proportion of children have been at school, the same as a number of us have been going to work, providing hygiene procedures are in place ie hand washing, for our own mental health and wellbeing we need to try and get some sense of normality.
LanceFogg
15th May 2020
2
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Yes. On the evidence available both from here in UK and from overseas, particularly from European countries, it seems that children are NOT carriers of the coronavirus and also constitute the population group that are least likely to be affected by the virus, many not catching it all.
Primary schools could re-open immediately. It is generally reckoned by the scientific experts that staff will probably have a substantially greater risk of contracting the disease from the staff room than from the class room. The teachers need to learn to distance themselves from each other rather than from the children.
LouiseG68
15th May 2020
1
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Since numerous scientific analyses have shown that children are NOT at risk from the virus, I can only assume that people do not care enough to read mor3 widely that the mainstream media who are peddling a specific line - I.e. bash the government. I recommend everyone to subscribe and read Lockdown Sceptics newsletter to keep you better informed. Please don’t bother to troll, I NEVER read any comments!!
ValerieB636
15th May 2020
4
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The year groups selected are too young. it would pose a risk to the children, the school staff, the parents and carers at the school gates, people they come into contact with on the streets - the list goes on.
It is impossible for children so young to understand social distancing and school with social distancing would be a miserable experience for them.
Oldgal
15th May 2020
5
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Having just retired from working in education , I can tell you that trying to self distance little children is virtually impossible . They are germ carriers , which is why viruses spread quickly through schools . On a lighter note if schools can’t stop the spread of bits through schools , how in hell will they stop the spread of an invisible virus ?
Valleyman
15th May 2020
2
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I think the circles of grand parents picking up the children could be at risk. We're all desperate to see out little one's but maybe there should be a lot of testing and ppe to prevent joy turning to tragedy.
Felix1
15th May 2020
3
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I am horrified at the thought. Gambling with our childrens lives. Maybe teenagers who may have a bit of sense. Awful.
Pennybyfar
15th May 2020
1
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Teenagers and sense, really? ☺️
HappyHippie
15th May 2020
5
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how do they think they are going to keep young kids away from each other,they wont understand that they can't play with friends, they will be so happy to see them again and talk to them it will be a nightmare for the teachers who will have to be constantly watching them... Its still not safe and putting even more of a strain on the teaches who have been working in schools all through this
Cariad66
15th May 2020
4
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High schools should be encouraged to return first, as they are approaching exams and can understand social Distancing.
Reception and Infant Schools should be last because sometimes they are not even toilet trained.
Marley444
15th May 2020
5
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Do the majority of people realise that many teachers have been in school this whole time? I think judging by what I have been reading it has been assumed that teachers have been shielding at home but so many have been in school face to face with children of key workers who ironically are the ones who may have been closest to the virus such as children of NHS staff. And they have been given hand sanitiser to protect themselves if they have been lucky enough! My question is, is it worth risking more infection for both the teaching staff and support staff for half of a term of what won't be 'normal' school teaching/learning? Will parents want to risk delivering and collecting their children, and what about those year groups that aren't being offered schooling?
RachW51
15th May 2020
2
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I agree. I have been going in to cover key worker’s children and with just 20 children, 3 children and soap and water it has been difficult. Let’s not forget that schools will have to still look after key worker’s children whatever year they are in.
MrsPat
15th May 2020
3
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Possibly-I am not sure there is a definitive answer to this question. Our children need to start their education again and the good news is kids do not seem to be badly affected by Covid 19 but on the other hand I just cannot see how children and especially the youngest are going to social distance and then they may catch the virus and bring it back to their families. Maybe all children should wear masks in the classroom?
anthonyconstantinou
25th May 2020
0
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Anthony Constantinou says, “As countries all over the world are considering when and how to relieve restrictions, attention is now being focused on the simplest ways to evade second or even third waves of Coronavirus infections.”

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