COVID – 19 – The Education Dilemma

I am no expert on this and this blog is not giving anyone advice, and nor am I looking for it.  These are just my thoughts on the matter.

With schools and early years settings in England advised to open from 1st June it is becoming a nightmare decision for a lot of parents about whether or not to send their child back.  Do you keep them off for longer, risking gaps in their education, or do you send them back and potentially risk their health?  Reading it like that I think most people would put health before education, but it’s not that simple.

It’s very hard to make an informed decision without knowing what the risk of sending your child back will be.  This week we received the list of procedures that will be put in place at James’ Early Years setting, and although impressive, it obviously can’t guarantee that there would be no risk of infection from COVID – 19.  Reading the list, some of the precautions they were putting in place were actually things I wish were in place permanently, but that is just coming from someone who is afraid of germs.  We need to remember that we often send our children into settings where they probably pick up a whole load of germs, so we are always exposing them to some risk.

At the moment we know the risk is COVID – 19, and although it seems that the majority of cases don’t affect children too badly you never know how exactly it could affect your child.  We frequently hear that children aren’t really at risk, and are also not as likely to spread it, but if your child is the exception then that is of little comfort. What if they do spread it, even a little? What if they pass it to parents with underlying health conditions? It is a worrying thought.

Personally I haven’t been impressed with how the government has dealt with the crisis so far and don’t have much faith that they will manage coming out of lockdown any better. I don’t trust that it is safe enough for schools to re open. I feel that they are now more focused on rescuing the economy and they want educational settings to go back so more parents can return to work.

Having said all of this I am still undecided about whether to send James back and we need to make our decision by Tuesday.  The British Medical Association have said that COVID – 19 infection rates are too high for England’s schools to reopen and this does play on my mind. Going into any educational setting there is always going to be some risk of our children catching something, usually something not very serious, but there is always risk.  In normal circumstances and because I am always worrying about germs I always change his clothes and wash his hands and face when he gets home before we do anything else.  To me it just seems sensible, to others it will seem over the top.

What I am trying to weigh up in my head is how detrimental to James’ learning will staying away from his Early Years setting be to his development?  We moved house in February, so since then James has only attended 3 settling in sessions at his new setting before they closed.  Prior to us moving he had been attending another Early Years setting where we used to live and we saw how much he developed in that time and how beneficial it was for him.  Whilst we have been in lockdown he has been excelling in his strength areas, there are other areas that he has no interest in which could be really developed by professionals.  His speech has been coming along well, but we have no guidance as to whether it is good enough for his age or tips on how to help him further. He needs to become more independent and do more things for himself and being at home certainly doesn’t help this, with my tendency to do things for him to avoid a battle and his lack of patience to persist at something until he can do it.

Then there is the social aspect.  James is an only child and it is vital that he gets to mix with other children.  Although I have no doubt that when he can mix with other children again he will love it, it plays on my mind that he has gone too long without social interaction with his peers.

It’s a battle in my head between health risk and development risk.  How high is the risk for both?  I really don’t know.  I have friends who are certain they won’t be sending their children back, others who like me are totally undecided and struggling to make a decision, and others who really don’t see much of a problem in sending them back.

There is also my own anxiety.  Is sending James back going to affect me and make me more anxious about COVID – 19, is that in itself going to be detrimental?  When I am already probably being over the top in my cleaning regimes, would James going back make me even more paranoid?

I know some parents are desperate for their children to go back, and probably for their own mental health.  Not getting a break from James is hard.  There are often things I think I could do around the house if I had a break from James, but how important is it that I do these?  Probably not very important at all.

I think one thing is for sure and that is that we can’t judge each other for the decisions we make.  Parents will have personal reasons for making the decisions they do and what is right for one family won’t necessarily be right for another.  Some families don’t even have a choice about whether to send their children back or not.  I think the best we can do is really think about it and make as much of an informed decision as we possibly can based on our own situations and feelings.

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