Reassure parents about safety of schools if you want them to return to work, heads tell PM

school reopening

The government must reassure parents it is safe for their children to return to school if it wants people to return to work, a headteachers’ union has said.

Boris Johnson announced today that the government will be relaxing its “work from home” advice from August 1, allowing employers to decide whether to ask staff to return to the workplace.

But Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said if the prime minister wanted to see more people return to their place of work, “it will be essential that parents are confident to return their children to school”.

“We’ve seen already that a significant number of parents do not yet have that confidence,” he said.

heads attendance Covid
Nick Brook

“Over the summer, we need to see as much effort from government in communicating a ‘back to school’ message as was first invested in the ‘stay at home’ instruction. This must focus on providing clear information about why it is now safe for children and adults alike to return to full-time education.”

It comes after a survey by Parentkind found many parents have still not made up their minds about whether to send their children back to school.

The poll found 26 per cent of parents “do not yet know if they are planning on sending their children back at the start of the new academic year”.

Johnson said today that from August 1, “instead of government telling people to work from home, we’re going to give employers more discretion and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely”.

“That could mean, of course, continuing to work from home – which is one way of working safely and which has worked for many employers and employees – or it could mean making workplaces safe by following Covid-secure guidelines.”

However, he said that “whatever employers decide they should consult closely with their employees, and only ask people to return to their place of work if it is safe”.

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  1. Joss Cowan

    The governments return to fining parents in the Autumnis a big problem. Many children already struggle with school attendence due to anxiety and other mental health problems (often due to underlying undiagnosed conditions such as ASD or ADHD). Many of these children have been unable to access help from CAMHS due to lack of resources which is a direct result of austerity.

    The parents of these children often get caught in a trap where they are blamed and threatened with fines and are sometimes prosecuted as they don’t have the required ‘evidence’ only available from CAMHS of their child’s genuine reason for not be able to cope in school (mental ill health). This is a very stressful sitiation to be put in when you are already dealing with a child in crisis. Surely this is the time for help to be offered, not threats?

    Many of these children have been off rolled by schools (illegally) or forced out by threats to parents. Some exhusted and penalised parents have been forced to home educate. This is often very difficult with child in a crisis who may also have special needs!

    More and more children could be prone to anxiety at this time, and those already struggling with it may find things even harder to cope with, especially if they don’t feel safe in the school they attend. This mix of fear of the virus, anxiety and fear of prosecution could be devastating and very challenging for many familes who should be getting help not being punished.

    The treatment of children who are mentally unwell (and their parents) is actaully discrimination in many cases (especially where there is an underlying co-morbid disability such as Neurological Developmental Disorders like ADHD and ASD) and it needs to stop! Better care, diagnosis and helpful interventions should be the focus! I am a parent who has been in this horrible situation, it devastated our family and cost our child their education. There are many thousands of us and we are scared of what comes in September if our kids can’t cope! We are connected via socail media support groups, and we know this issue is massive as there are so many of us. We know how important education is, but mental health must always come as a first priority.