Teachers have shared their nerves as they prepare to welcome pupils back into the classroom for the first time in more than two months – but up to a million children may be kept at home amid fears from parents.
Before classrooms begin to fill this morning, teachers have been sharing their support for one another as schools reopen with unprecedented social distancing measures in place to keep pupils two metres apart.
Pupils are being dropped off in pens at some schools, while a three-strike policy could see some children sent home if they don’t follow social distancing rules.
Pupils will begin returning to classrooms across England today, at Heath Mount Prep School in Watton-at-Stone, desks have been moved further to maintain social distancing rules
Desks have been taped off with smaller classroom sizes at some schools, including Holywell Village First School in Northumberland
Freddie Noble, six, and his little brother Will, three, are returning to school in West Norfolk today
One teacher wrote this morning: ‘Lots of us are going to feel very apprehensive and anxious about the new changes, however that looks in our school. We stand with each other.’
History teacher Chris Beach said: ‘First day back in school today. We in Guernsey are blessed to have no active cases, but I am worried for friends and ex-colleagues in the UK – stay safe everyone.’
Another commented ‘Anxiety through the roof for many,’ as primary school children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 are able to return to school after 10 weeks out.
Schools have been preparing for classrooms to reopen for weeks, corridors have been marked off to keep pupils apart as they go about their school day, while desks have also been moved to maintain a distance of two metres between schools.
Bowie Cool, four, and her mum Lozzie Cool from West Sussex, took a practice walk to school on Sunday to prepare for a return to the school run this morning
Children as young as four are being put in social distancing bubbles in classrooms and playgorunds to prevent the spread of Covid-19 germs
Most teachers have reduced class sizes, which will operate in bubbles, with no interaction with other classes.
Corridors have been marked off to keep pupils apart at a school in Northumberland
For younger years, toys have been taken out of classroom and are being kept in storage out of fear they could hold Covid-19 germs.
Brian Walton, head teacher at Brookside Academy in Somerset, spoke to Good Morning Britain ahead of pupils’ arrival from 7.30am.
He said: ‘Like headteachers up and down the country we’ve been planning this probably from when lockdown started really. It’s taken meticulous plans consultation with staff and parents.
‘Like most of the teachers right now I’m glad it was a really early start because I probably wouldn’t have slept anyway.’
Children are at an extremely low risk of catching coronavirus. The majority of hospital admissions are people over 60.
St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Hertford has prepared its classrooms for pupils’ return
The main concern over pupils returning to school is the potential spread of germs between different households, while teachers who may be at risk could also be exposed.
Headteachers have also predicted that more than one in five teachers will be forced to work from home because of health conditions, their age or because members of their family are vulnerable.
Co-headteacher Matt Ferris of Kingsholm Primary School has explained many of the new features in response to parents’ questions over how their children will adapt to social distancing measures,
They will be given a designated time slot and and allotted area – or pen – where they leave their child before heading off along a designated walkway.
Pupils will be told to maintain social distancing between others, and they will only be allowed to mix with a small number of others.
Students who do not conform with the social distancing rules will also be sent home on a three-strikes policy.
In a video published on the school’s website, Mr Ferris talks parents through what they can expect when Year 6, Year 1 and Reception and nursery children return on June 1.
Drop off and collection times will be staggered with queues and marked walkways for parents and pupils to follow.
Kingsholm is using timeslots based on surnames, with parents being asked to drop children off alone, without siblings or other children.
Pupils will be dropped off by parents in to pens that will be sectioned with barriers as they arrive.
Parents have raised their own concerns however, Vix Lowthion wrote: ‘My children are not going back to school tomorrow. I have spent weeks trying to influence this govt’s pathetic handling of the pandemic.
What can I do as lockdown measures ease in England?
Coronavirus rules are changing in England from today, here are some important things to bare in mind.
Can I meet more people?
From June 1 you will be able to meet up to six people from separate households, in outside spaces.
This means that you can meet limited numbers of family and friends in gardens and parks, but you must continue to follow social distancing rules.
You can play sports with the people that you meet, but only if it is possible to keep a two-metre space between you, such as tennis or football.
Will my children go to school?
Primary schools can begin to open for pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 from Monday.
Vulnerable children and children of key workers can still go to class, and teaching can start for older pupils in Year 10 and Year 12 in two weeks time, Monday June 15.
Will any more shops be open?
Most non-essential shops will remain closed on Monday, but car showrooms and outdoor markets will be allowed to reopen.
Other non-essential shops can start to trade again from June 15.
Can I go on a day out?
Day trips to outdoor spaces are allowed as long as you do not stay the night. While on a trip people have to maintain social distancing and hotels are still closed.
Will there still be punishments for breaking the rules?
Yes, and fines for rulebreakers have been increased.
Penalties for a first offence are now set at £100 (reduced to £50 if paid within two weeks) and double for every subsequent rule breach, up to £3,200.
If I am shielding can I leave the house?
From Monday, the two million people who have been shielding in England can now leave the house to spend time with people outdoors.
Those considered extremely vulnerable will be able to go outside with members of their household, while continuing to follow social distancing guidelines.
And those who live alone can meet outside with one other person from another household, also adhering to social distancing guidelines.
What are the rules in Wales?
From Monday people from two households in Wales will be able to meet outdoors, as long as they do not travel more than five miles and observe social distancing.
People who have been shielding will also be able to exercise outdoors and meet people from another household, but must not go into another house or share food.
What are the rules in Scotland?
Since Friday, people north of the border have been allowed to meet in groups of eight, outdoors in parks or gardens, but these gatherings can only include members of two separate households.
There have been no changes to rules for people who are shielding.
What are the rules in Northern Ireland?
Some rules will be relaxed in Northern Ireland on June 8.
In a week, some more shops such as car showrooms can open, and outdoor weddings will be able to take place, but limited to fewer than ten people.
Pets can also go to grooming parlours, and outdoor sport facilities will be allowed to open.
‘It’s now got to the point I have to protect my own kids and their teachers and families. It’s the responsible thing to do.’
Other parents are happy with a return to school life though, with one father saying his child was going ‘stir crazy,’ during the lockdown.
Ministers last night reassured parents that reopening primary schools today is safe amid fears that up to a million children may be kept away.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said it was ‘extremely important’ children went back to school.
It comes as a study suggested up to half of families may shun sending their youngsters to lessons due to worries about the spread of coronavirus.
This means that a million children, half of those in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, could be kept off, in a blow to the government’s hopes of getting back to normal.
The majority of primaries are expected to open from today, despite fierce opposition from the National Education Union.
At the 11th hour, the union again attempted to scupper openings, claiming they should be delayed until June 15 to protect youngsters and teachers.
Unions are also vehemently opposed to rumours of summer school classes being set up for vulnerable children. Minsters are thought to be considering it as a possibility to make sure pupils get the best opportunities.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), told Sky teachers should not have to work over the summer holidays.
She told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘Teachers have been working flat out to provide education for children at home.
‘So what should happen is – and we do support this – clubs and activities on a volunteer basis.’
But Education Secretary Gavin Williamson attempted to allay parental and staff concerns, insisting that Government decisions throughout the pandemic are ‘based on the best scientific and medical advice’.
He said: ‘While there might be some nervousness, I want to reassure parents and teachers that the welfare of children and staff continues to be at the heart of all of our considerations.
‘For the past three weeks the sector has been planning and putting protective measures in place.’
Speaking at the Downing Street briefing, Mr Jenrick said ministers believe it is ‘possible to open schools safely’. He pointed out that 80 per cent of schools have been open throughout the pandemic, with thousands of teachers already educating children of key workers as well as vulnerable pupils.
Mr Jenrick said: ‘It may be that there are some parents out there today who have not yet made the decision to send their children back to school but will do so in the days ahead when they’ve seen other people make that step and schools manage to reopen safely.
‘I certainly hope so, because it’s extremely important that we do get children back to school.
‘All of the evidence suggests that it is children from the most deprived, the poorer households, who are losing out by not having that crucial face-to-face contact that you get in a school setting. I don’t want to see that continue for any longer.’
Government safety measures include returning primary pupils having access to coronavirus testing, along with symptomatic members of their family. They will be kept in small, socially distanced groups of no more than 15 throughout the day, with staggered breaks, lunchtimes, drop-offs and pick-ups.
Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, told the press conference that testing capacity across the country ‘is now very significant’ at up to 200,000 a day.
She pointed out that the ‘risks of social interactions are reduced’ as pupils will be kept in small groups. Boris Johnson wants nurseries and early years providers to reopen today, and primary schools to allow back their Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 groups.
Some students in Year 10 and 12 will be allowed to meet face-to-face with their teachers at secondary school from June 15.
The majority of primaries are expected to reopen. But many are only admitting a fraction of eligible pupils, with the introduction of rotas, as they struggle to adapt to smaller classes and reduced teacher levels.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said it was ‘extremely important’ children went back to school
The National Foundation for Educational Research surveyed 1,233 head teachers in state primary and secondary schools in England.
They expect nearly half (46 per cent) of families to keep their children at home because of their concerns around coronavirus or the need to self-isolate. The figure is slightly higher for primary schools (47 per cent) compared to 42 per cent in secondary schools.
Across all schools, those with the highest proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals – an indicator of poverty – estimate the figure to be 50 per cent. This compares to 42 per cent in schools which have low levels of disadvantaged students.
Mothers who could sue the Government over pupils’ human rights
By Jim Norton for the Daily Mail
Three mothers may sue the Government over school closures, claiming it may have breached children’s human rights.
They have written to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to ask whether the mental welfare of pupils has been considered.
They also fear draconian social distancing rules planned for returning schools could cause long-term psychological damage.
Welfare fears: Campaigners Liz Cole, 46, left, and Christine Brett, 48, right, are two mothers who could sue the government over school closures
Campaigner Christine Brett, who has two children, said: ‘These are healthy children who have been quarantined for 12 weeks – they shouldn’t be treated like they’re germs, disinfected on entry and separated on to individual tables.’
Schools will return today for select year groups for the first time since March 20.
The three mothers launched the Us for Them campaign for parents who say they were made to feel like pariahs for disagreeing with children being kept at home because of Covid-19. Molly Kingsley, 41, Liz Cole, 46, and Mrs Brett, 48, all from Cambridgeshire, have one child returning to school and another still at home.
They said evidence the lockdown harms youngsters’ well-being may have been overlooked. The group is also arguing against extreme distancing as it may breach the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Former lawyer Molly Kingsley (pictured) is one of three mothers who said evidence the lockdown harms youngsters’ well-being may have been overlooked
They have instructed lawyers to examine whether Government actions so far and the distancing plans may have been unlawful.
Former lawyer Mrs Kingsley said if it failed to take into account children’s welfare, they are prepared to sue. Almost 2,000 parents and teachers have backed the campaign.
A Department for Education spokesman insisted the welfare of children had been ‘at the heart of all considerations’.
Children and young people will experience high levels of loneliness and depression for up to NINE YEARS after lockdown ends
Children and young people are likely to experience high rates of depression and anxiety long after the lockdown ends, according to a review.
The research draws on more than 60 pre-existing, peer-reviewed studies into topics spanning isolation, loneliness and mental health for young people aged between four and 21.
It concludes that young people who are lonely might be as much as three times more likely to develop depression in the future, and that the impact of loneliness and mental health could last for at least nine years.
Authors of the study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said clinical services need to be prepared for a future spike in demand.
It concludes that young people who are lonely might be as much as three times more likely to develop depression in the future
The study comes as NHS England’s top doctor for children and young people’s mental health has urged parents to be alert to signs of anxiety, distress or low mood as some pupils return to school on Monday.
Dr Maria Loades, clinical psychologist from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, said: ‘From our analysis, it is clear there are strong associations between loneliness and depression in young people, both in the immediate and the longer term.
‘We know this effect can sometimes be lagged, meaning it can take up to 10 years to really understand the scale of the mental health impact the Covid-19 crisis has created.
‘There is evidence that it’s the duration of loneliness as opposed to the intensity which seems to have the biggest impact on depression rates in young people.
‘This means that returning to some degree of normality as soon as possible is of course important.
‘However, how this process is managed matters when it comes to shaping young people’s feelings and experiences about this period.
Schools should be resourced and given clear guidelines on how to support children’s emotional wellbeing during the transition period as schools reopen, the experts say
‘For our youngest and their return to school from this week, we need to prioritise the importance of play in helping them to reconnect with friends and adjust following this intense period of isolation.’
Members of the review team were also involved in a recent open letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.
They suggest that the easing of the lockdown should be done in a way that provides children with time and opportunity to play with peers.
Schools should be resourced and given clear guidelines on how to support children’s emotional wellbeing during the transition period as schools reopen, the experts say.
They call for play – rather than academic progress – to be the priority during this time.
Their letter concludes: ‘Poor emotional health in children leads to long-term mental health problems, poorer educational attainment and has a considerable economic burden.’
Professor Prathiba Chitsabesan, NHS England’s associate national clinical director for children and young people’s mental health, said the return to school may cause anxiety for some pupils as well as those who remain at home feeling isolated or left out.
She stressed that NHS mental health services remain available for children and young people.
‘Children and young people may be experiencing a variety of feelings in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including anxiety, distress and low mood, and it is important to understand that these are normal responses to an abnormal situation,’ Prof Chitsabesan said.
‘The NHS offers a large amount of mental health support for children and young people, and if a child needs urgent mental health support or advice, check nhs.uk for services in your area, including 24/7 crisis support.’
NHS England issued advice on what parents should look out for and steps they can take to look after their child’s mental health.
Signs include finding children are more upset or struggling to manage their emotions, appearing anxious or distressed, increased trouble with sleeping and eating, appearing low in mood, reporting worried thoughts or more bed wetting in younger children.
Parents can help by making time to talk to their children, allowing them to talk about feelings, trying to understand their problems, helping their child do positive activities, trying to keep a routine and looking after their own mental health.
Nadine Dorries, minister for mental health, said: ‘As many children start to return to school, it’s vital we continue to give them the support they need to maintain their mental health and wellbeing and deal with any feelings of uncertainty or worry they may be experiencing.
‘The NHS remains there for those who need it and our mental health services are adapting to best support families and children as we all get used to these changes in routine.’