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‘I may not send my boy back to class’ - Government faces parent backlash over schools reopening

The government is facing a backlash from parents who say they will refuse to send their young children back to primary school next month when classes reopen.

As the next phase of the Covid-19 lockdown was unveiled, the Department for Education confirmed that it intends for all primary year groups to return to school during June, starting with reception, Year 1 and Year 6 on June 1.

The plan has been met with fears for the safety of children and teachers.

Around half a million people have so far signed a Change.org petition, demanding that parents have the right to choose whether to send their children back and that families who keep children at home are not fined if they do so.

Monty Mears, aged six, and Caroline Mears
Monty Mears, aged six, and Caroline Mears

The government has confirmed it does not intend to penalise those who keep their children off, but will strongly encourage parents to send them back unless a child or a family member is shielding, or the child is particularly vulnerable due to an underlying condition.

Mum-of-four Caroline Mears, whose son Monty is in Year 1, said she was considering not sending him back to class yet.

Caroline, from Burwell, said: “I am really worried about sending Monty back to school. What if he gets sick and he passes the virus to our three other children and then we as parents get sick?

“What worries me most is that if anything happened to me and my husband, we have four children and their grandparents are not capable of looking after them at the moment.

“It doesn’t make sense. Why send back reception and Year 1?

Monty Mears doing home school work (34692873)
Monty Mears doing home school work (34692873)

“I know that Monty will be all over his friends like a rash. Even though he doesn’t particularly want to be at school, he has missed his friends so much and he won’t be socially distancing from them. He’s a little boy – they play fighting games and tag. How are they going to unlearn that?

“When we have bumped into people in the street, Monty has gone running over to them because he’s a child and he doesn’t understand.

“It’s totally wrong. I think the government just wants to get the economy back up and running, which I agree has to happen at some point, but sending our children into the lion’s den is not the way to do it.

Caroline Mears and Monty Mears (34692867)
Caroline Mears and Monty Mears (34692867)

“I think [Prime Minister] Boris Johnson has lost a lot of face doing this and I think a lot of people have lost even more faith in the government because of this suggestion of sending little kids back to school right now.

“I’m not a teacher and home schooling does drive me nuts, and I’m so worried about their education, but I would rather them be even two years behind in their education than dead.”

Guidance for teachers and parents was published on Monday evening by the government.

Schools are asked to restrict class sizes to 15 pupils, seated two metres apart to maintain social distancing, and to stagger drop-off, break and pick-up times, while stepping up cleaning routines and handwashing.

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