Redbridge Council addresses parents’ questions on schools re-opening and calls for more testing
- Credit: PA
As Redbridge schools re-open this week the council held a virtual meeting to answer parents anxieties about sending children back and what will happen if there is a Covid outbreak.
A number of parents asked whether they would be penalised for not sending their children back to school or if they decide to switch to home-schooling.
The council reiterated its position that issuing a fine to parents who choose to not send their children back would be a measure of last resort.
Cllr Elaine Norman, cabinet member for children and young people, told the meeting on Thursday, September 3: “I can accept that parents and children are going to be anxious and we’ll take that on board and work with them.”
Colin Stewart, operational director of education, said they would speak to those individual parents and try to understand their concerns before penalising them.
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Before the meeting council leader Jas Athwal and Cllr Norman sent a joint letter to the secretary of state for education, Gavin Williamson, calling for regular and random Covid-19 testing in schools, particularly once one child tests positive.
Students will be put into bubbles and the current government policy is that only children who show symptoms of coronavirus should be tested.
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If a child tests positive then the entire group of people in that bubble, including staff, would need to self-isolate for 14 days regardless of whether they show symptoms.
The council is calling for the ability to immediately test everyone within that bubble so that any students or teachers who are not sick do not need to self-isolate.
Without the ability to do testing at this level there may come a point where an entire school might be temporarily shut down – if each bubble needs to self-isolate at the same time.
Students who are self-isolating will be do remote learning for those two weeks.
One parent said they know of at least two families within their social group who have returned from a country that is on the quarantine list but are planning to send their children back to school regardless.
Cllr Athwal said: “This is pure selfishness. If you have information about a parent who is being dishonest about this you need to come forward.
“It’s not snitching but it’s whistleblowing because that person is putting everyone else at risk.”
One of the safety measures being put in place is staggered drop off and pick up times to reduce the number of parents and children entering the school at any given time.
This presents a problem for parents who have multiple children attending the same school and in some cases they need to wait 30 minutes between dropping off their children.
Mr Stewart said “we sympathise with parents here but we are stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one” after establishing bubbles that shouldn’t mix with each other even if there are sibling overlaps.
Cllr Athwal suggested getting a count of how many parents are affected by this and if the numbers are small enough, to try to find an alternative solution for them.
Although schools are trying to return to as near normal as possible, there was no information for when breakfast clubs and after school clubs could return.
Since those clubs would often mean children from different bubbles mixing together it isn’t possible for the time being.
Some parents expressed frustration that there isn’t an option for online classes.
Mr Stewart said: “No matter how hard we try with online learning, it can’t take the place of what would happen in the classroom.
“So we are trying to put the focus and energy into making the provision in schools as good as we can and at the same time trying to improve the online aspect as an addition to being in person in school.”