Send My Kids Back To School?

For families in lockdown with small children, life can be a somewhat mixed bag; a wonderful time filled with cuddles and quality time with your little angles and a unique hellscape of tantrums and screaming over which child gets to pick what’s on the telly. A WWE style showdown on whether to watch Peppa Pig or The Octonauts has become as much a part of our morning ritual as my first cup of tea. No one ever said lockdown was going to be easy, but it’s something we as a society have taken on the chin to keep our friends and loved ones safe. Now parents all over the country are left with a choice, take the chance of gaining a bit of sanity by sending their eligible children back to school, or stay in the Groundhog Day-esque whirlwind of conference calls and meltdowns.

The temptation to get back some semblance of normality is overwhelming, the thought of being able to get some work done uninterrupted, my wife being able to look for new jobs after being made redundant and my daughter finally getting to see her school friends again, as well as ensuring she gets the level of education she needs that me and my wife just can’t provide. All this is weighing heavily on the notion of sending her back to school with the rest of her reception class. However, the school she attended before lockdown is far removed from the school she would be going back to, and imagining groups of four- and five-year olds trying to maintain a two-metre social distance while wearing face masks conjures an image I find quite heart-breaking. There’s no doubt in my mind that lockdown has not been beneficial to my children’s mental health; they are incredibly observant and having to reassure my child she won’t die in her sleep because she has a cough is something that will stick with me for a long time. Children need lots of positive attention from their parents and that’s something you just can’t give fully when trying to represent a member in trouble from your sofa.

There are multiple reasons to support the argument for sending my child back to school, to get us all back to a more ‘normal’ routine and allow her to be a normal 5-year-old again. But despite all this, I find myself unwilling to let her out of my sight. In our little bubble at home, I know where she is. I know who she’s come in contact with throughout the day and I know she’s safe – and these are all incredibly compelling arguments in their own right. The Government’s strategy and the Daily Mails attack on the education unions this morning has now cemented my belief that this is not the time to be taking such a risk. This Government has failed to meet the five demands set by the unions and their members to ensure a safe return to work and school. They have decided to send the working classes, and our children, over the top first, using emotive language around ‘heroism’ to try and shame our educators away from taking a stand. If this Government had shown the slightest bit of competence when dealing with the crisis up until now, I might feel differently, but as things stand I do not trust them to act with good intentions. My daughter is not a sacrificial lamb to be offered up in a bid to restart the economy, her health and wellbeing will always come first to me, and the health and wellbeing of all our children (al of all people) should come first to the Government. Many families already do not have the luxury of keeping their kids at home, key workers who are their children’s sole caregivers as an example. Many families will soon have no choice but to send their children back to school so they can keep putting food on the table. I don’t think it is right this to demonise families put in that position, for many families will have no choice, but it is also not right to demonise the teachers and education unions, who are trying to put health and safety first.

Raising children in lockdown is hard but I will happily keep dealing with daily battles over the remote control if it means keeping my kids safe a little longer.