Coronavirus: Newham parents and teachers share thoughts on school reopening plans

Children will have to follow social distancing measures in school. Picture: Jacob King/PA

Children will have to follow social distancing measures in school. Picture: Jacob King/PA - Credit: PA

Pupils should not return to school this academic year.

That’s the verdict of almost 90 per cent of Newham residents - the majority being parents and teachers - who completed our survey.

More than six in 10 - 61.33pc - said they thought it would be safe for pupils to return in September, with an additional 28.44pc saying children should only go back to the classroom once a vaccination for the coronavirus vaccine has been found.

Just 8pc are in favour of following the government’s plan for some primary school pupils - those in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 - to go back as early as June 1. The remainder thought July was a suitable start date.

The survey, carried out by the Recorder and its sister titles in east London, saw more than 900 people share their opinions on issues surrounding when pupils should return to school, how easy home-schooling was and if universities should accept students who have not set exams due to the coronavirus pandemic. Of these, 225 identified as being from Newham.

There was a lower proportion of Newham residents favouring a June or July start date - 10.22pc - than the London-wide average of 12.33pc.

Meanwhile, 24pc of respondents from Newham said that universities should not accept first year students who have not sat exams, with this summer’s sitting cancelled to halt the spread of coronavirus. This is in line with than the east London-wide average.

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Pupils who were due to sit exams including A-levels and GCSE this summer will instead receive a calculated grade, with teachers asked to submit a judgement on what they feel each pupil would have achieved had the exams gone ahead, taking into account factors such as mock tests, classwork and homework.

The government has said that those due to sit exams this summer may also sit an exam early in the next academic year if they wish to do so, or in the summer of 2021.

Many of those to respond to our survey also offered their thoughts on the issue and some described feeling conflicted.

One parent said: “Being a teacher myself, I totally understand the importance of education and during the lockdown we are making sure that children are getting education through distance learning. At the same time being a mum of three kids in primary school, I am very sceptical and scared to send my children out in the world of virus.”

Another told us: “Although I think it would be safer to open schools in September, I will send my Year 6 child to school if it opens in June. A chance to leave primary school well will be important.

“But I’m concerned how schools will staff smaller classroom numbers whilst still offering quality homeschool learning for other year groups. I would worry that it will put even more pressure on already overworked teachers.”

But the parent of another Year 6 pupil had a different view, saying: “I will not be sending my child back to school on June 1. “My reason for this is because it’s not safe to have a party, weddings, mass gatherings of more than a couple of people so how is it safe to send some year groups back?”

Schools have been closed since March to all except the children of key workers and those considered most vulnerable, with the vast majority of pupils having to learn at home.

Of those who responded to our survey, 34.6pc graded home schooling as a three out of five in terms of how difficult they were finding it. That was fractionally lower than the east London-wide average of 35.3pc.

Concerns were also raised about the practicalities of home schooling, with one parent saying: “It’s hard for kids to do online work as some parents dont have computers and knowledge.”

Another added: “Consideration should be given to single parents working full time from home and homeschooling and also not knowing how or what to teach.”

One respondent, who said they were a working single parent of a six-year-old, called the experience “difficult,” adding: “At times we’ve given up with the school work provided and instead have undertaken activities that are more suited to her health and wellbeing than what is mainstream ‘educational’.

“But this is a sacrifice worth taking given the large numbers of Covid-19 cases in Newham and also Covid-19 deaths.”

If you would like to have your say on when schools should reopen, email and your thoughts could appear on our letters page.