Coronavirus: Havering parents and teachers share thoughts on school reopening plans

Children will have to follow social distancing measures in school. Picture: Jacob King/PA

Children will have to follow social distancing measures in school. Picture: Jacob King/PA - Credit: PA

Pupils should not return to school this academic year.

That’s the verdict of more than 80 per cent of Havering residents - the majority being parents and teachers - who completed our survey.

Six in 10 said they thought it would be safe for pupils to return in September, with an additional 23.78 per cent saying children should only go back to the classroom once a vaccination for the coronavirus vaccine has been found.

Just 11.35 per cent are in favour of following the government’s plan for some primary school pupils - those in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 - to go back as early as June 1. The remainder thought July was a suitable start date.

The survey, carried out by the Recorder and its sister titles in east London, saw more than 900 people share their opinions on issues surrounding when pupils should return to school, how easy home schooling was and if universities should accept students who have not set exams due to the coronavirus pandemic. Of these, 185 identified as being from Havering.

Children will have to follow social distancing measures in school. Picture: Jacob King/PA

Children will have to follow social distancing measures in school. Picture: Jacob King/PA - Credit: PA

But despite the overwhelming thinking it was safest to keep pupils home for the remainder of the term, there was a higher proportion of those favouring a June or July start date - 16.21pc - than the London-wide average of 12.33pc.

Meanwhile, 32 respondents from Havering - 17.3pc - said that universities should not accept first year students who have not sat exams, with this summer’s sitting cancelled to halt the spread of coronavirus. This is less than the east London-wide average of 24pc.

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Pupils who were due to sit exams including A-levels and GCSE this summer will instead receive a calculated grade, with teachers asked to submit a judgement on what they feel each pupil would have achieved had the exams gone ahead, taking into account factors such as mock tests, classwork and homework.

The government has said that those due to sit exams this summer may also sit an exam early in the next academic year if they wish to do so, or in the summer of 2021.

Many of those who responded to our survey also offered their thoughts on the issue, with some saying enforcing social distancing measures in the classroom would be detrimental to young children.

One parent, who has a son in Reception, said: “Going back and having to social distance will confuse and upset him. I don’t agree with the June date at all, far too soon.”

Another said: “I work in a school setting and cannot see this social distancing working. I think it would be damaging to the children’s mental health.”

Mental health concerns were also raised by a parent from from Upminster, who said they were more concerned about their son’s state of mind than him catching the virus.

They added: “Eight weeks without interaction with his peers and the school structure have really taken their toll on him.

“This generation of children will be different because of this lockdown and I am unsure if it will be positive or negative impact.”

Schools have been closed since March to all except the children of key workers and those considered most vulnerable, with the vast majority of pupils having to learn at home.

There were conflicting thoughts on how successful home schooling, and the support from schools across Havering, has been.

Of those who responded to our survey, just over a third - 35 per cent - graded home schooling as a three out of five in terms of how difficult they were finding it. That was in line with the east London-wide average.

One Romford parent had praise for their son’s school, Marshalls Park Academy, while another said: “Google Classroom has been amazing, with regular contact from teacher and school.”

But one parent told us there had not been much contact from their daughter’s school during the lockdown, adding: “It would have been a good idea for teachers to do group Zoom sessions online every week to keep kids in touch with school, teacher and classmates.”

If you would like to have your say on when schools should reopen, email and your thoughts could appear on our letters page.