Two mothers describe their mixed feelings about sending their children back into classrooms

Jane, 42, from Derbyshire, has two children – a daughter in primary school and son in secondary.

“It’s been really difficult to motivate my kids and keep them focused, because they’re surrounded by home comforts and distractions. I’m working from home, so I can’t be sat there helping them all the time. It’s caused quite a lot of frustration and arguments; I think we’ve fallen out every day over schoolwork.

“School is very regimented, the kids know what to expect each day. I think it gives them the focus to be able to learn properly. No matter what you do at home, with the best will in the world, you can’t recreate that.

“Schools have done their best to support parents through this crisis, but I think the children have been off for way too long and I am worried about the gap this will leave in their education. My kids have been doing two or three hours a day at most, so there’s bound to be gaps in the curriculum. I’m not an expert in science, geography or subordinate clauses, I’ve had to learn along with them.

“I know children are resilient and will catch up, but that process needs to start in September, it can’t go any later. School is essential not just for the educational aspect but for social, emotional and personal growth. As a parent, I think you forget how important that is – it’s part of their growing up and learning to be rounded people.

“I completely understand the risks to health, but if pubs and restaurants, and other places where children are going to be, can reopen, surely schools need to reopen as a priority too.”

Kate Dunsmore, 42, from Staffordshire, has three children – one in primary, one in middle school and one in secondary.

“As a family, we feel very apprehensive. We have not trusted this government from the start of the Covid-19 nightmare. They have dithered so much, and there have been constant U-turns. We haven’t sent any of our children back to school yet, even though two of them could have gone.

“I think it’s too soon to reopen fully, and I also don’t think there’s a proper plan to get them back. It feels like [the government] are sending them back because they have to.

“I can’t see the bubble system working. All it takes is three or four kids together to start coughing and the whole school is disrupted. They’re asking for a lot of trust to be put in a large number of students.

“I particularly resent the reintroduction of fines for absence. It’s like an awful dictatorship, where the government can’t trust parents and we can’t trust them. Without the fines, I would keep my children at home, especially the youngest, who is doing well here. If there are parents who can keep kids at home and have good home learning, it should be an option.

“The kids are happy at home. I discussed it with them and gave them the option, and they much preferred home school. They’re definitely happier at home than somewhere they have to feel unsafe.”