Deciding on whether or not to send James back to his Early Years setting was a really tough decision. We did our research and listened to the opinions of doctors and scientists about the risks. At times we were leaning one way and then we would read something else and it would turn us the other way. I also frequently made the mistake of reading comments on articles and hearing the general public’s opinions rather than expert opinions. I have learned never to do that again!
In the end we came to the conclusion that with the measures James’ Early Years setting was putting in place and reading their risk assessment we decided that the risk was low and that we thought James would benefit from attending rather than continuing to stay at home. We have had fun at home and enjoyed spending lots of time in the garden and going for walks, but we also felt he was missing out on what an Early Years setting provides so well. The decision about whether to send your child back into their education setting is a really personal one, and one I really believe is down to each family to decide what is right for them.
At times I have read Facebook comments on articles such as “that’s why I won’t be sending my child back” or “my child’s health comes first” and have really worried about whether we were making the right decision. Personally I don’t think comments like that are helpful to parents that have decided to send their children back and people need to be mindful about what they are writing. I think we need to be open minded and respectful of each others decisions. We shouldn’t try and influence each other, as what is right for you may not be right for another family. You never know other peoples circumstances.
Some parents don’t have a choice about whether to send their children back or not, often because of their work situation. We are lucky in that we do have a choice. I am a stay at home mum and my husband is currently working from home more than he is working from his office. I could quite easily keep James at home if I thought that was best for him.
The measures James’ Early Years setting have put in place are impressive and were one of the major factors in swaying us. To be honest I would like a lot of these measures to be permanent fixtures being hygiene obsessed. Drop off and collections are staggered, there are socially distanced spots at the entrance, children are greeted by one member of staff who collects their things, while another accompanies the child to wash their hands. There are a maximum of 10 children per room and 3 members of staff. The staff socially distance but it is unreasonable to expect pre-school children to do the same, so for James it isn’t too different for him. I can understand how this is different in schools and could be daunting for children. Outside play is encouraged, toys are cleaned after each session or put on a rotation system and soft toys have been removed. His water bottle even gets wiped down when it enters the building and parents are not allowed in. I also put him in the shower and change all of his clothes as soon as he gets home. It’s a new way of doing things and if everyone follows the procedures I am confident it is relatively low risk.
We had a zoom meeting with other parents and the teachers a few days before, followed up by a phone call which really put most of my anxieties at ease. The nursery seemed to be really taking their preventative measures seriously. However, on the first day back I was still a bit apprehensive, was I sending my child into a breeding ground for COVID-19?
James went into the building with no problems and I could see them taking him to wash his hands. I was impressed with how their procedures were working in practice and this again put me at ease. I went and did our weekly shop, which in all reality probably carries more risk than sending James to nursery. I rang them at 10:30 to check how he was and was told he had settled in well and had been playing with the cars, trains and kitchen. This was a relief. If James doesn’t like something he lets us know, so I was pleased it sounded like he was enjoying himself. It’s not just going back to nursery, its starting a whole new nursery for James. He had previously completed 3 settling in sessions with me but then they stopped just before lockdown. He had finished his previous setting back at February half term so I did wonder how he would react going somewhere without me again.
I knew the second session would be the real tester because he would be fully aware that he goes there without me. I am pleased to report that he was more than happy to attend again the second time. He is showing that he is happy to attend and he always looks like he has enjoyed himself when I collect him.
James learnt a lot at his previous setting so we really value the contribution that attending an Early Years setting can make to his development. This was our main reason for sending him back. His previous setting was great at picking up on areas to improve on and giving great advice on how to help James improve. With James being an only child, the social aspect was something that we had seen him get a lot out of as well. We thought the benefits of James continuing in the early years setting were very strong in his particular case.
Ultimately there is no right or wrong answer as to whether children should go back to their education session. I heard one person say that we have to make the jump at some point and that resonated with me personally. As we adjust to the new normal we all have to assess how much risk we are willing to take and decide when we want to take the jump and allow some risk, within the guidelines. For some parents sending their children back at the moment is something they’re really not comfortable with and they are totally entitled to that opinion, for others, sending their children back into their education setting is what they feel that they and their children need. Everyone loves their children and wants them to be happy and healthy.
Personally I think we have made the right decision for James and us as a family. I think James is enjoying the change of scenery, playing with different toys and seeing different people. However, this is the right decision for us and I know it’s not the right decision for everyone.