Parents on why they are not sending children into school in run-up to Christmas

“It’s just not worth risking,” says Hester Grainger, who has decided to keep her daughter out of school for the final few days of term as coronavirus cases rise.

She stopped sending her 11-year-old into school last Thursday – exactly a week before English schools are due to break up for Christmas term.

The government has insisted schools must remain open until then, despite several London councils recommending all teaching move online for the final week in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus in their areas, and concerns students and staff could be asked to self-isolate over Christmas.  

However, some parents – like Ms Grainger – have decided to keep their children off school just in case.

“The local high school was getting a lot of cases, and I thought it was just not worth risking – we’re not doing much over Christmas – but just not being able to leave the house,” she tells The Independent.

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Another factor was it appeared the school had “ramped up” safety rules in the classroom and she was worried about this would impact her daughter, who has ADHD and autism, says Ms Grainger, whose website Perfectly Autistic offers support around autism.

Another parent, who wished to stay anonymous, said she was keeping her son off school from Tuesday in order to guarantee their family could visit her daughter, who is in hospital, on Boxing Day.

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“Cases are increasing in our area and I just don’t want to take the risk that we could receive a phone call on Christmas Eve telling us to isolate,” she tells The Independent.

Her son in Year 11 finished mock exams on Monday and could work from home after that, she said – so would be staying at home from Tuesday.

Downing Street said on Monday all schools should stay open until the end of term on 17 December, as some London councils advised schools to move teaching online for the final days of term. 

“We’ve consistently said that not being in school has a detrimental impact on children’s learning as well as their own personal development and mental health,” Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said on Monday. “Which is why we expect all schools and colleges to remain open until the end of term on Thursday, as schools have remained open throughout the pandemic.”

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Despite schools staying open for a few more days, Julie Goodfellow in the Staffordshire Moorlands is keeping her 13-year-old daughter off until the end of term.

Her daughter had been self-isolating for two weeks, which would have taken her until the end of term, but was told she could return after the self-isolation period was cut to 10 days. However, Ms Goodfellow says she will continue to stay at home.

“It seemed totally ridiculous to take the risk of a potential Christmas isolation – meaning she wouldn’t be able to share Christmas Day with our household and my parents who we see as they do childcare for my younger children – for the sake of three days of learning,” she tells The Independent.

Over in Scotland, David Bhella in Glasgow is also keeping his daughter at home before her term officially ends. 

“Our aim is to minimise risks so that we can meet with my mother and father-in-law for Christmas Day – my father-in-law has advance Parkinson’s so we want to protect both grandparents from the risk of contracting Covid” he says.

“There have been many cases in our primary school this past week,” Mr Bhella adds.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “It is only natural that many parents will prioritise family safety over attending school in the last few days of term and keep their children at home.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “It is a national priority to keep education settings open full time and it is vital that children remain in school until the end of the term.”

They added: “Schools, colleges and early years settings across the country have worked tremendously hard to put protective measures in place that are helping reduce the risk of the virus being transmitted and our regional school commissioner teams continue to support local authorities and school trusts to remain open and help resolve any operational issues.”

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