Headteachers are asking the government if they should fine parents who refuse to take their children to school after lockdown. It is the latest twist as the country looks at ways of returning after the pandemic.
School heads are urging ministers to clarify whether it will be compulsory or optional for pupils to attend school when it has been opened again for their particular age group.
Ordinarily, children are only allowed to miss school if they are too ill to go in or if they have advance permission from headteachers. Parents can be issued with £60 fines if their children are absent with no good reason, which doubles to £120 if it is not paid within 21 days. If it is not paid after 28 days, parents could face prosecution by their local authority.
to fine or not to fine, that is the question
Presently, there are no concrete plans for schools to open, although there are indications that some schools could open as early as June or July, for years 10 and 12 initially. These are seen as the key years as students will be facing GCSE and A-level exams next year.
Parents are unsure if they want their children to attend school, so soon after lockdown ends. Not only could their children be at risk of infection, but they could also bring any infection home. Some children either have older parents or some rely on grandparents, which could put them at risk.
Some children actually want to return to school. It is not cool for the average 16 year old to be stuck at home with ‘boring’ Mum and Dad for so many weeks and they now want to escape the family home to get back with their friends.
There is also the issue of furloughed workers to consider. From 1st July, furloughed workers will be down to 60% of their wages. For some, this will not be enough to survive on, so workers who are unable to work from home, will also want to get back to work. Most children will not be able to remain at home on their own, so parents will have the choice of staying at home and having a big drop in income or sending their children to school – if the school is open by then.
Despite the schools best efforts, it would be extremely difficult for children to maintain self-distancing once they return to their friends. It is too easy for adults to overlook self-distancing when distracted, so to expect children to do the same is unrealistic.
Not only are there many questions around the childrens safety, but teachers unions are also wanting answers. They maintain that teachers will not be returning to schools unless certain safety standards are adhered to. Ministers have also ruled out schools sitting during the long summer holidays, as teachers will need their 6 week break.
At the present time, it looks like a lot of questions will need satisfactory answers before children can go to school. People will be looking to government for some clear and concise instructions for the way ahead. Sadly, they may be left wanting…