The majority of local parents do have faith that schools will continue to look after children and their wellbeing, according to a recent focus group of local parents across Kent.

In collaboration with Modular Classrooms, our founder Vicki Raven, questioned local parents about their main concerns ahead of schools returning next week.

As well as the obvious anxiety that their children may catch (and then spread) coronavirus, the main concerns parents had were about lack of learning and development due to the new set-up, as well as falling behind in their learning. Interestingly, the mental health impact and bullying risks (e.g. due to the wearing of masks) were not seen as concerns.

However, other responses were more discursive, and included a range of potential issues. These included that school transition arrangements not being clear, concerns about children not being able to move around the classroom or school, there being no clear guidance on additional arrangements for those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND children), a lack of social interaction, still too many children in the school at one time, children are not aware enough of good hygiene, the disruption if there is a rise in cases and schools close again, student tiredness, coping with the new arrangements and changes, separation anxiety, masks causing anxiety, as well as the increased vulnerability of parents and/or children who have been shielding.

When asked if they trust their childrens’ school to look after the students’ wellbeing, 80% said yes. When discussing whether parents would prefer to continue homeschooling or encourage their children to return to school, overwhelmingly parents across Kent feel their children should be back in a school environment. The main reason for this was due to the fact that teachers are specifically trained and experienced, highlighting that many may have struggled to educate their children alongside other home and work commitments. Other reasons spoken within the focus group included that a school environment provides a far better social experience overall.

When discussing if he felt masks were necessary, Chris Tuck, Founder of the charity Survivors of Abuse communicated that she strongly believes masks are not needed, commenting:

“Children need to see the full face of teachers and peers to learn social interaction and communication skills. As we head into Autumn, most young children get colds quite often, good hygiene is hard at the best of times so wearing a mask would not help this. Also there are many teachers who shout to keep control. When you consider the fact that child abuse and DV has risen during lockdown, children who come from these environments who would potentially be shouted at from teachers will be triggered from shouting. Wearing masks (pupils and or teachers) will exacerbate their fear and their response to trauma.

“So when you see concerns from parents for their children’s wellbeing, often traumatised children will not breathe properly wearing a mask which in turn will not help any anxiety and panic attacks. It’s also very important to consider the deaf or hard of hearing, or even children who dissociate, will need to read lips. Masks are not worn correctly by many, and many people touch their faces all the time, masks are not kept clean or disposed of regularly. I know several people who share masks and do not have the money to replace them.”

A spokesperson for Modular Classrooms by TG Escapes added:

“It’s a really tough time right now for schools across the country. Parents and teachers are witnessing first-hand how additional space can create a more comfortable learning environment which can benefit and improve learning, particularly with the current social distancing measures in place”.